When were working to recover from PTSD , we're introduced to so many paths for healing. Our family doctor, our first step in the process, enters our treatment so inadequately prepared. General practice physicians in western medicine are increasingly brilliant, in my experience, in working with us and our physical body. For the general practitioner, mind issues need a higher-level of care, being very much outside a general physician’s knowledge and scope.
In Canada, (British Columbia) this means accepting the upper-level care of a specialized physician, the psychiatrist.
Psychiatrists are well-versed in chemical treatments for mental health issues. PTSD patients in the care of psychiatry are easily prescribed a cocktail of medicines that psychiatrists deem are helpful. They've years of experience with these medicines, and they do help to stabilize us in the beginning of treatment when options for trauma-informed care have yet to raise a hand.
Psychiatry has a partner, one more difficult, unfortunately, to access. Psychologists are better trained to help us with counseling and other modalities of treatments. These three groups of helpers combine well to balance our over-all care.
Psychologists are currently better trauma-informed than psychiatry seems to be. Those who've made trauma, and resulting conditions such as PTSD and Compassion Fatigue their life's work, have a variety of helpful modalities to fit to our unique understanding and care-planning needs.
Art and Music Therapy; Eye-Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing; Self-Regulation Therapy; and Exposure Therapy, are a few of the modalities, currently employed. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is the modality granted greatest credibility, and combined with Talk Therapy is delivered alongside all the other mentioned treatments available through psychologists today.
Some of us have turned to religion and spirituality, to help us find our way through. Persons with a stronger sense of relationship with a Higher Power are said do much better in trauma treatment and recovery from issues such as, PTSD.
The future holds promise for neuroscientists to become key figures in treating any issues of the mind. Mind issues need what's coming for us next. This is neuroscience-with a goal to complete a full mapping of neuronal activity, relevant to our conditions, firing out of control in the human brain.
Research in neuroscience is helping us to make huge strides in understanding trauma. Thus, this is one reason for such an explosion in understanding in as short a period as the past five years. Organizations such as One Mind for Research, are working hard to simplify access to research. Utilizing an Open-Source philosophy, they hope to collate as many peer-reviewed, scientific research projects as possible for a variety of conditions accessible to us all in one convenient, online place (particularly the illnesses that develop due to trauma & psychological injury).
As the one needing care, it's our responsibility to work our personal trauma recovery on a daily basis. In an ideal scenario, we could perhaps go to a one stop shop for mental health care, as we are able to do quite easily now for most physical injuries. Trauma is a psychologically induced, physical injury to the brain. This fact is coming to greater light in the treatment community; however we're a long way away from looking at trauma and PTSD through any filters relative to injury. Our systems don't yet fully treat the injury as such-we're stuck with the label, and the assumption of mental illness, at least in our time, for now.
Mental health and addictions care is in crisis around the world, as the system now tries to work towards rectifying this crisis. In a recent Psychological First Aid course I completed online, the material states an expected rise in need for mental health services of between 15 and 25% in the coming years.
With limited resources, patients are currently triaged and prioritized in the system according to levels of danger in the patient’s reality. Should we be suicidal, or a threat to others, access to care is immediate. Outside of these acute circumstances often evident in crisis, we are generally added to long waiting-lists, and receive services quite slowly, as we move closer to the top of our triaged position on any waiting-lists.
Trauma-informed care is a welcome catch-phrase receiving lip-service around the world, and this concept is finally inching way into the combined world of treatment. We'll all do much better, once all care-providers necessary in helping ourselves, become fully-and-completely trauma-informed.
Never accept the false-mythology (story) attached to PTSD. It is NOT necessarily a life-long illness. In words shared with me from a psychiatric nurse recently, "PTSD is the only mental illness we are certain now, has a cure." The condition is potentially curable, and the outcome for us as patients holds a very strong potential for us to experience what is now referred to as, Post Traumatic Growth.
Our care-systems still have a long way to go integrating all of these services for us under one roof. I've seen dramatic improvements over the last five years, however services remain uncoordinated and difficult to wade through. We need a care-team fully informed of trauma, all acting in concert to help us to develop and maintain an appropriate care-plan.
For some of us, this requires addictions services as well, having fallen prey to substance use in our efforts over the course of recovery to self-medicate our misunderstood and troubled emotions. To supplement any structured care we receive from the system, many of us have turned to the industry of self-help.
The self-help industry is vast, filled with both survivors and practitioners sharing stories in books written to help us understand our needs. Authors like Michele Rosenthal, Syd Gravel, Anna Baranowsky and Charles Figley - this is just a small representation of authors on the topic I've read over the years. The bookstore here on the blog lists all I've consumed now in my own effort to fully succeed in recovery.
Most of the new-age, self-help material available in the market is helpful to us. Though such material remains far from trauma-informed on the surface, authors such as Wayne Dyer and Deepak Chopra have much to offer; however we need specialized care and specialized information in order to deal appropriately with trauma. The new-age authors are great sources of information for self-improvement for anyone. Adding them to our mix of guidance post-recovery, with the support of our professionals, certainly hasn't done me any lasting harm.
One of the greatest contributions to date, to assist me personally post-recovery, is the introduction of philosophy into my own mix of additional self-help.
When philosophy first came into my life two years ago, it was through some online education. For the past two years, I've studied university level courses using Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCS). Coursera and other education providers online, do an excellent job bringing the best education covering a variety of interests to the masses for free. Here we can study, pretty much any subject we want to learn about.
Philosophy proved very relevant in helping me find my own way. Not so much the history of the subject, which has lost status in higher-education as a foundation-stone for other subjects, philosophy can rather teach us a key skill necessary in recovery. What we can take-away from this subject, is a model for digesting information that we learn to engage in study through all the knowledge we need to acquire in order to succeed in PTSD recovery.
The greatest benefit of philosophy (any academic study really) is that the process teaches us to critically think. With a known disconnect in the human brain between our reptilian (survival) brain and our prefrontal cortex in PTSD, working on building knowledge is an exercise of great benefit: though difficult to achieve without commitment and some hard work.
Working our brains helps through neuroplasticity to restore the lost connection between the survival, memory and thinking parts of the brain. This is so necessary for us if we are to return to full-functioning in our mental health.
A huge gift came my way this past month, in a book by author,Jules Evans: Philosophy For Life & Other Dangerous Situations: Ancient Philosophy For Modern Problems.
Evans in working to rescue himself from an emotional crisis (he is a PTSD survivor) became fascinated by 'how ideas invented over two thousand years ago can help us today. He interviewed soldiers, psychologists, gangsters, astronauts, and anarchists and discovered the ways that people are using philosophy now to build better lives. Ancient philosophy has inspired modern communities — Socratic cafés, Stoic armies, Epicurean communes — and even whole nations in the quest for the good life'.
"This book is an invitation to a dream school with a rowdy faculty that includes twelve of the greatest philosophers from the ancient world, sharing their lessons on happiness, resilience, and much more. Lively and inspiring, this is philosophy for the street, for the workplace, for the battlefield, for love, for life'. (Philosophy for Life & Other Dangerous Situations, available on Amazon).
The work summed up for me the various philosophies of ancients and contemporaries I was introduced to through academic study in recovery. In Philosophy for Life & Other Dangerous Situations, Jules Evans helpfully covers them all. First published as recently as 2012, Evans sums up for us the works of Socrates, Plato, Heraclitus, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and many others from the ancients.
Evans also covers the familiar philosophies of Jeremy Bentham, Fredrich Nietzche and David Hume. He introduces us to the works of more contemporary figures, such as Robert Nozick, Alasdair MdcIntyre and Michael Sandel. He touches on various useful interpretations of Aristotelian, Epicurean, Socratic, Sophist and Stoic philosophies. Evans does so in a comfortably engaging way, using accessible language allowing his work to appeal to practically anyone.
The greatest contribution Evans makes is in summarizing these various philosophies to help us construct for ourselves a personal guiding philosophy for life. As a PTSD survivor, Evans knows well the heartbreak and confusion of trauma. He clearly points to the value of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in his work, a treatment modality created by Albert Ellis, based upon the philosophy of the Stoics.
We've seen dramatic infiltration of Buddhist philosophy and practice in the mental health treatment community of late. Evans suggests, by introducing us to what is really the concept ofPhilosophical Counseling, teaches that western philosophical principles also hold a valuable place in recovery. Stoic Mindfulness courses are beginning to show themselves, and such courses are becoming available to us and are offered for free, online.
I highly recommend this book, if for no other reason than to begin a learning adventure into the realms of philosophy. As a supporting, self-help addition to any recovery plan, Evans work here, provides us all with great additional medicine.
Darren Gregory is a writer, consultant and educator, specializing in trauma: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gregorydarren
Further Reading & Resources
Darren Gregory, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Primer, 2014: http://www.traumarecoverybc.com/uploads/2/5/7/7/25779192/ptsd_a_primer_darren_gregory.pdf
Internet Resource: BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services: http://www.bcmhsus.ca/
Internet Resource: Palouse Mindfulness: Online Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Course: http://palousemindfulness.com/selfguidedMBSR.html
Internet Resource: Stoicism Today: Stoic Mindfulness and Resilience Training (SMRT): http://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/stoicismtoday/stoic-mindfulness-and-resilience-training-smrt-course/
Internet Resource: Canadian Association of Philosophical Counselling/Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Canadian-Association-of-Philosophical-Counselling/191857064163495
Internet Resource: Applied Buddhism: Can Buddhism Cure Mental Illness: http://appliedbuddhism.com/2014/04/23/can-buddhism-cure-mental-illness/
Internet Resource: The Albert Ellis Institute: http://albertellis.org/
Internet Resource: What Is Neuroplasticity: http://www.whatisneuroplasticity.com/
Internet Resource: Body Language University: The Reptilian Brain: A Prehistoric Hold-Over, Hiding out in the Human Head: http://www.bodylanguageuniversity.com/public/238.cfm
Internet Resource: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu/
Internet Resource: Elements Behavioural Health: Self-Medicating for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: http://www.elementsbehavioralhealth.com/trauma-ptsd/self-medicating-post-traumatic-stress-disorder/
Internet Resource: Dual-Diagnosis.Org: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder & Addiction: http://www.dualdiagnosis.org/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-and-addiction/
Internet Resource: Sample Mental Health Care Plan: Medicare Local: http://www.fmpml.org.au/sites/all/sites/default/files/files/ATAPS_MentalHealthCarePlanSample_2Sep2013.pdf
Internet Resource: Post Traumatic Growth Research Group: What is PTG?: https://ptgi.uncc.edu/what-is-ptg/
Internet Resource: The Open Source Science Project: http://www.theopensourcescienceproject.com/
Internet Resource: One Mind For Research: http://onemind.org/
Internet Resource: Neuroscience News: PTSD: http://neurosciencenews.com/neuroscience-terms/ptsd/
Internet Resource: PTSD Spirituality: http://www.ptsdspirituality.com/
Internet Resource: 1 in 6 Support For Men: Herman's Stages Of Recovery: https://1in6.org/men/get-information/online-readings/recovery-and-therapy/stages-of-recovery/judith-hermans-stages-of-recovery/
Internet Resource: The Trauma Recovery Blog Bookstore:
Anxiety BC: Resources: What is CBT: http://www.anxietybc.com/what-cbt
Taylor & Francis Online: Art & Music Therapy For Trauma Survivors: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08322473.2011.11415547
Trauma-Informed Practice Guide BC, 20 13: http://bccewh.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/2013_TIP-Guide.pdf
College of Psychologists of British Columbia: http://www.collegeofpsychologists.bc.ca/
You MUST Embrace Today - To Grow After Trauma. Ask Dr Anna Baranowsky
Disclaimer: These materials and resources are presented for educational purposes only. They are not a substitute for informed medical advice or training. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified health or mental health care provider. If you have concerns, contact your health care provider, mental health professional, or your community health centre.
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