Tag Archives: Recovery

032 – Can Art Help Heal PTSD?


Rice Terrace by amenic181 FDPIn today’s episode:

–        Art Therapy, what is it?
–        Finding healthy ways to express the darkness
–        Some ideas…
–        Words
–        Photography
–        Is it a good fit?

Art Therapy, what is it?

Just at the mention of the word therapy some people want to change the subject.  In the past when I have thought of art therapy I pictured people sitting around finger painting or creating an oddly shaped clay pot.  Apparently there are much more imaginative possibilities.  Please stick with me.  What I am discussing hear can be formal or informal.

People have been expressing themselves and working through problems using art for a long time.  Recently there have been effort to formalize a therapeutic method to help people with PTSD.  It is usually combined with other traditional therapeutic methods.  I think these are worthy efforts.

In a general sense, it is tapping into the creative parts of our brain to express ideas and concepts in a context that can help lead to growth and healing.  This is not a textbook definition, but it works for me.

Art can also be therapeutic in this consumption.  Reading a story, looking at an image, listening to a song can all be part of our own healing process.

Finding Healthy Ways to Express the Darkness

Whatever is on the inside seems to find its way out—even if we think we are hiding it.  Part, but certainly not all, of PTSD is attempting to integrate these “dark” experiences into the reality of our lives.  We can try and hid from these things.  This hiding can be a temporary coping mechanism we use to get through a crisis.  But at some point we need to deal with and integrate these memories.

Some ideas:

–        Music
–        Painting/Drawing
–        Photography
–        Poetry
–        Journaling
–        Writing Stories
–        Autobiography
–        Video

Finding expression for what is going on inside.  In art, of any form, we can capture and express ideas of both beauty and tragedy.


Some can find release in word.  Poetry, stories, journaling, and song writing can be good options to explore.  Fictional stories can be a way of expressing deeper realities.


Many of us are deeply moved by what we see.  A photograph can instantly move us emotionally.  There is a difference between a selfie or a quick snapshot and a photograph that has the power touch us deep in our soul.

My Chrome Cast TV device displays some of the best photography from around the world that I have ever seen.  The 1080p HD television comes alive with seen from around the world. A few sunsets are included in the rotation.  For a moment my TV is transformed in to a tool of tranquility.

The same is true with other emotions.  Have you ever seen a photographic essay of a tragic historic event?  The phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand word” holds truth.  The empty loneliness in the eyes of an orphaned child; or the terror in the eyes of a mother holder her dead child can move us to tears—maybe even action.

Not only can looking at images have a power affect.  For some, capturing images can also be a sources of healing.

Is art a good fit for your recovery?

I do not consider myself to be “artistic”.  Yet I have at times greatly benefited from the creative efforts of other people.  I have also benefited from expressing myself artistically.  Perhaps I have not made full us of these areas of my brain to aid in my own post-traumatic growth process.

How about you?  Perhaps consider giving some kind of artistic express a chance.

How has art, in any form, positively impacted any part of your recovery?


Photo courtesy amenic181 on FreeDigitalPhoto.net

024 – Running Through, Not Away From, Memories

RunningTowardTarget by Master isolated images FDP

by Master isolated image on Freedigitalphoto.com

Hay, I found an instant, quick fix to post-traumatic stress… Not really.  But there are many tools we can use to grow and work toward—and achieve—success over PTSD.

One of the coping mechanisms in PTS is to avoid memories.  At times this may be necessary.  But at some point we will need to deal with our past.  We can equip ourselves with tools to help with this process.

This week we take a look at the role running can play in the recovery process. 

We will discuss:

  • The brain and body in stress (and post-traumatic stress): hormones, steroids and the body/brain connection (see Episode 001 – Post Traumatic Stress: It’s not just in your head).
  • The brain and body while running
  • How much running?  According to Dr. Otto, blood levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), increase after about 30-40 min of running.  But this is not the only benefit!
  • Prolonged Exposure Therapy
  • Other benefits – besides the physical and psychological: goal achievement, causes, comradery.
  • What about those that cannot run?  Perhaps it is best if we not focus on what we can do and consider whatever we can do right now.  I share my own struggle with not being able to run or do other intense physical activity because of my lungs.


Article, “Running Back From Hell”, http://www.runnersworld.com/runners-stories/running-back-from-hell?page=sing

Team Red, White, and Blue – helps service members transition http://teamrwb.org/

STRONG STAR (South Texas Research Organizational Network Guiding Studies on Trauma and Resilience) http://delta.uthscsa.edu/strongstar/

Question:  Have you found exercise to be beneficial?  Please join the discussion.  Your experience can help or encourage others.

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Does it matter if they (providers) really care about your recovery?

Does it matter of our doctors, nurses, therapist, clergy (or anyone involved in our healing process) really care?  Or is it all dependent on pills and checklists?

Many things are involved in the recovery of PTSD.  One aspect that we may not think about too often is the relationship between the provider of care—those involved in the healing process—and the one receiving the care.  Empathy and trust have been found to be important parts of care and recovery.  We are impacted by the empathy we perceive from those supposed to help us recover. 

Questions we may ask about a provider (consciously or otherwise):

  • Do they really care about my recovery?
  • Do they believe that I can recover?
  • Can I really trust them to keep all this stuff confidential?
  • Will they loss respect for me if they find out what I am really thinking and feeling?

Ronald Murphy, PhD in a symposium on PTSD notes:  “And a lot of therapists, and a lot of research shows that the best predictors of treatment—no matter what cognitive behavioral intervention you did—the best predictor was the degree of expressed empathy by the therapist and how much the patient felt understood by the therapist when you measure those things, very important. I think we underestimate the power of therapeutic alliance.”* 

Ted Kaptchuk, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard, observes that how physicians “frame perceptions” can affect the outcome.  A study done with people diagnosed with intestinal problems reveals this idea.  Even while receiving fake (placebo) care some patients actually go better—not just felt better—when the care was accompanied by empathetic interactions.**

If we are not making the progress that we would like in our recovery it may be helpful to consider the relationship and connection we have with those involved in our recovery.  There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that a care relationship is not working.

What do you think?  Does knowing/feeling a therapist (or other providers) really cares impact recovery?

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* http://harvardmagazine.com/2013/01/the-placebo-phenomenon

** http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/videos/transcripts/sat_change_2.pdf (National Center for PTSD, Readiness to Change in PTSD Treatment Part 2, Written Video Transcript pg 3) http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/materials/videos/change-ptsd-treatment.asp (Part 2 Video Time 9:50-10:11)

Beyond the limits! Jason’s story…

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Doctors, professional books, and even those close to us will sometimes unintentionally place a limit on our potential.  They may be well intended.  Sometimes they are correct.   There are things that we may need to accept.

But …  That is not for others to determine on their own!  Consider Jason’s story.  The VA was willing to sustain him in an institution.  When he decided to go home with his parents their books determined that he was as recovered as he could be and cut off the rehab resources.

Jason, however, was still progressing.  So his family continues to pay for rehab services out of pocket.  The VA was willing to spend huge amounts on institutionalizing him but not to pay a much less amount for continued rehab services.

We understand that some people stop progressing in their rehabilitation and there needs to be checks and balances.  But a formula should not be the determining factor.  We are all unique and have unique situations.

Are you facing a physical injury, Post-Traumatic Stress, relationship issues, work problems or you are being told that it cannot be done?  Don’t accept that on face value.  Don’t blindly rely on the formula.

Be wise and listen to the counsel of others.  There are some limits we may have to accept; but not without a fight.  Not without first thinking outside the box!

Watch Jason’s story as captured by the Wounded Warrior Project

012 – The Power of Music


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Throughout the world and throughout time music has been part of celebrations, calls to battle (action) and dealing with loss.  Even when the style, instruments and language are unfamiliar there is something recognizable about the message being conveyed in music.  It aids us in expressing our joys and pleasures.  It can pull tears even out of hard hearts.  But can it help bring lasting transformation to those dealing with PTSD?

In this episode we will discuss the different roles music plays in our lives and possibly as part of our recovery.

Therapeutic role of music 3,000 years ago (David)

Music affects our bodies, our minds and our soul.  Music can:

  • make you laugh: “Weird Al” Yankovic,  (for those who enjoy this kind of song…)

  • be part of celebrations
  • stir people to action.
  • bring us to tears.

The Brain and Music

 Music Therapy

 PTSD and Music

Group therapy utilizing different objects (need not be a musician)

A UK study of PTSD and music therapy (non-veteran) in the journal Psychology and Psychotherapy: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.2044-8341.2011.02026.x/full

 A VA (U.S.) study by Health Service Research & Development Service: Guitars for Vests: Evaluating psychological outcome of novel music therapy: http://www.hsrd.research.va.gov/research/abstracts.cfm?Project_ID=2141700403#.UuEs8hDTlhF and http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/20110805a.asp

 Live music played during a group session

Dr. Mary Rorro (the violin doctor):  http://www.wnyc.org/story/93503-music-helps-vets-control-symptoms-ptsd/

 Individuals and groups participating in the creative process

If you are interested in Guitars4Vets: http://www.guitars4vets.org/

 LifeQuest Music camp:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/military-veterans-seek-support-and-release-through-music-at-lifequest-arts-camp/2012/01/23/gIQAeRcMQQ_story.html

 LifeQuest Music camp video:

 Healing Veterans through the Creative Artshttp://warriorsongs.org/

 Some of the music created by veterans via Warrior Songhttp://warriorsongs.org/music/

 Jason Moon’s song, “Trying to Find My Way Home”:

Buy this song on Itunes: “Trying to Find My Way Home”

Music Theropy and the Military (a Huffington Post article):  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ronna-kaplan-ma/veterans-music-therapy_b_2361076.html

 Listening to Music

We each have different tastes in music, art and comedy.  Take a chance and listen to something that falls outside of the norm for your tastes.  People for all backgrounds communicate their stories through song. 

What songs have impacted your life?  Share with the community the music that has impacted your life?

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008 “3 Reasons to Reach Out to Help”


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What role does helping others play in our own recovery process?

We will start out with an update of our 21 day gratitude experiment from last week’s episode: Can Gratitude Save Your Life?  

3 Reasons to Reach out: The Power of Outreach

[Note: You do not have to be a veteran and suffering from war related PTSD to help a veteran with moving forward in their lives.  The same is true for veterans.  What you learn through your battle with stress, anxiety and PTSD can benefit non-veterans.]

  • Gets focus off of you and your situation.
  • Reinforces what you already know.
  • It helps discover areas for improvement.
  1. Reaching out to others gets the focus off you and your situation.  It can be easy to become consumed with our own immediate and long-term problems.  Even in partial state of growth it is possible to reach out to other in need.  It fact we will always be in a partial state of growth.  Now may not be our moment to reach out.  We should reach out in an area that we have experienced some victory.
  2. Reinforce what you already know.  By reading out to others we strengthen the foundation we have been building the in RESTORE and START process.  We have the opportunity to teach another what we have learned from our resources (tools) and experience in applying those tools.
  3. At the same time we may discovers even more effective ways of addressing areas in our own life’s and situation.

Some quotes about helping others… (from www.GoodReads.com)

  • “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”  – Charles Dickens
  • “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” –  John Bunyan
  • “Non nobis solum nati sumus. (Not for ourselves alone are we born.)”  – Cicero

Listen to Devastation or Transformation for an overview of the START goal setting process.

Listen to RESTORE: 7 Practical Parts to the RESTORE process for a summary of the process.

  • Question: How has reaching out to help other assisted you in your journey?


Is fear holding you back?

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Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Most people I know admit that fear affects their decision making in some way.  In a way that they feel usually holds them back from attempting to accomplish something new.  To overcome this fear it may not be enough to simply recognize its existence.  It is a start to recognize that fear is fueling an internal distraction; but all that might do is bring to your awareness that something is holding you back.

Many offer what appears to be a simplistic solution such as, “Just go for it!  Get over it!” Or they may share a cliché such as “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”.  As true as these statements are, the often fall short of releasing someone, or equipping someone to move forward with confidence and competence.

It can be difficult to overcome a nebulas obstacle.  For many identifying and understanding the source of the fear can be an important part of moving beyond the fear into new areas of success.  This process should not devolve into an endless loop of self-pity.  It should be with the intent of addressing and ultimately overcoming the obstacle.  This process itself takes courage!

Some shrink away from this process are assert that this sort of what they may call “navel-gazing” as pointless.  If it turns into navel-gazing, I would agree.  If we become self-absorbed and stuck in the fear or the past we are not addressing and overcoming.  Yet if we do not face and deal with whatever reality is holding us back then we are not likely to be able to boldly move forward.

The first step may be to acknowledge and accept that there is some fear holding you back.  Don’t stop there!  Courageously and patiently move forward.  If you feel stuck, have the courage to reach out for assistance.  Sometimes friends can help.  If not, a counselor, mentor, pastor or coach can help identify the core elements that may be holding you back.

It takes work to overcome our internal obstacles; but the rewards are great.  When we overcome these things we are free to act; and even free to not act.  In our freedom we may find that our lives take on an entirely different direction then we expected when fear was guiding our thinking.

Some will not enter into treatment for PTSD, or any other issue, because of fear.  Fear that they will be seen as week.  Fear that the treatment won’t work.  Or many other fear based obstacles.  We can overcome fear.  For me, as my faith in God grows stronger fear starts to take a back seat.

Today is the day that can start to turn around.  If you need someone to walk this part of your journey with you contact me at david@hopeandrestoration.org

How have you overcome fear in the past?  Please share your experience in our components section (at the top of the post).


Stop Double Victimizing: once is already too much

“If it bleeds it leads.”  This is too often true in regards to the press.  Some have the impression, from the media coverage, that most returning combat veterans will suffer from lifelong PTSD.  This is just not true.  

In a very real sense we sometimes double victimize those who have experienced trauma.  The original event and by perpetuating the perspective that recovery from PTSD is unlikely, or even not possible. 

PTSD can be difficult to deal with; but it is treatable!  We should expect recovery from our selves (those dealing with PTSD) and from our loved ones.  Dave Grossman comments on this perception:

“Too few mental health professionals communicate to their patients that 1) they can recover quickly from PTSD and that 2) they will become stronger from the experience.”

Grossman, Dave; Christensen, Loren W.  On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and Peace Kindle Edition.

Question:  Do you think your attitude about PTSD recovery makes a difference?