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Healing PTSD: Dogs, Horses, Apps . . . and BS

February 12, 2014 Tom Cloyd, MS, MA

It's winter where I live. Apparently it's winter lots of places right now - a time for dark days and dark thoughts. I know a lot of people who are in trouble right now, and tempers are just a bit short, mine included. And now we have to deal with horses. It's about "healing" PTSD, you understand. Oh, you don't? Yeah, I have the same problem.

I'll get back to the horses in a moment.

I have to be careful here, as I'm not exactly known for my tact. For most people it appears that being "nice" is more important than telling the truth. I've never quite gotten on board with that, and after well over 60 years of trying, I no longer expect to. In health care, as in philosophy (my first love), and in a lot of other things, if you misunderstand the problem (i.e., get the diagnosis wrong), your solutions (treatment) have little or no chance at all.

The bigger the stakes, the more this matters. If you're working with something tough, like PTSD, it's critically important. How "nice" is it to be soft-headed when dealing with PTSD and just plain blow it, as a result? I think more people need to work much harder on getting to the truth concerning how we respond to PTSD and what consequences ensue. (There, that was pretty mild mannered. Maybe I can do this after all.)

We can heal PTSD, usually. But critters on 4 legs aren't a part of the treatment, nor are "apps." By Tom Cloyd, MS, MA, author of Trauma! A PTSD Blog.What "healing" means

Like many commonly used words, it's not exactly clear what this word means. In philosophy, this verbal clarity problem is common, and there is a traditional way of dealing with it: stipulation of meaning. Before you talk about something, you "define your terms," making it clear what certain crucial words mean to you. We do this in order to minimize confusion and misunderstanding.

Healing, for me, means that you've "fixed the problem." An example: I had chicken pox when I was a kid. I got treatments of various sorts. I don't know how relevant they were, but I DO know that after a while I no longer had the disease. I was healed, and none the worse for the experience. So, that's what healing looks like, as I will use the term from this point on in this piece - the damage done by the disease is gone. If someone were to examine you in relation to the relevant diagnostic protocol, you would NOT get the diagnosis. Simple, yes? And, it is certainly possible to get partial healing.

What needs healing with PTSD?

Looked at most broadly, there are two kinds of damage.

First, one's present function is compromised. It's hard to stay focused if you have to deal with the involuntary, intrusive, emotion-saturated memories we call flashbacks. It's also hard to live a normal life if you keep having to avoid stuff so you don't trigger too much. And it's definitely hard to BE normal, with yourself and others, if you're so edgy due to hypersensitivity and its consequences (sleep loss, etc.) that you're like the cat who lives in a neighborhood with too many big dogs.

Second, there's the covert damage due to lost opportunity. The learning essential to living a good and satisfying life generally accumulates with time and experience. You have to show up for real engagement with life, day after day, year after year, to get this benefit. Over time, you catch on to some things, and you get closer to being a Life Master, in a few areas at least.

But with PTSD, while other people are doing that, what are YOU doing - you and your PTSD? You're generally going in circles, just trying to catch that tail that keeps eluding you. Not exactly productive activity, and this can go on for years, and years, and years, and...

So, should you happen to be one of the fortunate minority who actually gets it that PTSD can usually be healed (Remember what that means?), AND you find someone who can help you accomplish this, AND you do the work needed to get to the finish line, you now have a new problem: catching up with those other people, who were NOT chasing their tail for all those years.

I point this out because it adds another dimension to what it means to be healed, and we don't need to BS ourselves about this, do we? No, because it's just not helpful to pretend. (A quick sidebar on this matter of "catching up:" in my experience with a wide range of people with PTSD, it's often not all that difficult, and it can happen fairly fast - months instead of years, or maybe just a couple of years instead of a decade.)

Now for the horses

Cue the horses. And the dogs. and the flipping computer apps, for the love of Pete.

Today I read in the news a piece about a large grant given to a Canadian program that uses horses ". . . to help veterans recover from post-traumatic stress disorder and operational stress injuries . . ." In all fairness, of the several articles about such programs I've read in recent months, this is by far the best, and the same goes for the program it describes. I think the major reason for this is that a key person involved is an actual psychologist, so we have something in play here beyond mere compassion (Love isn't enough, remember?) and enthusiasm.

Still, I am a bit staggered by the degree of misdirection involved. The funds donated were $150,000 (Canadian, I presume). In my professional practice, about 5 years back, I did a little data analysis, and found that if a client completed treatment with me, we usually got the job done in about 12 weeks. At $85 an hour, that's a cost of a little over $1000. These are "soft" numbers, to be sure, and absolutely will not apply to someone with serious childhood abuse or neglect in their history, who will take longer - often much longer. But for someone with adult onset PTSD, I find these numbers quite reasonable. For people in the military, the presumption is that they got PTSD because of their military experience, so these numbers should apply to them as well. That $150,000 should treat (read "heal") 150 service men and women. Permanently.

Instead, we're spending it on horses. Or in some programs, dogs (at a cost of $20,000 to train one dog to be a "service animal"). I'm starting to get warmed up here, so let's bring in those computer apps now.

Computer Apps rather than actual therapy

The US Veterans Administration has a website bearing the name National Center for PTSD is, ". . . dedicated to research and education on trauma and PTSD." It's just gotten a facelift, it's gorgeous, and it's also full of great stuff. I love this site.

But, it's focused on military-related PTSD. How can this be a "National Center for PTSD" when, according to the best available data, most people with PTSD have never had anything to do with the military AND are women as well? Is the VA living in its own fact-impervious little world? But it gets worse, much worse.

I won't even bother to cite statistics about how badly the US military is doing with PTSD; you'd have to living in a Himalayan cave not to have heard. Frankly, I think the VA is probably doing significantly better than the military in any other country I can think of, period. But, they still aren't making access to qualified therapists easy or quick. I don't blame them. I blame the people who fund them, and that's the US Congress. But the real problem is us. We're not MAKING Congress address this problem.

So, instead of getting EVERYONE with a PTSD diagnosis (heck, I'd settle for 80%) into therapy within, say 3 weeks of diagnosis, most never get therapy, but do get told that PTSD is a lifelong condition. (Whew, thank the gods for THAT. Now we don't have to actually DO anything about it, since it's futile anyway.) I hear this claim all the time from vets I talk with.

Ah, but we can do this: We come up with an "app" for those with PTSD. By reliable report, it has distinct value, which is great. It'll give the guys and gals something to do while they're on hold on their call to the VA, or waiting to talk to someone at a VA hospital so they can make an appointment to wait some more, to get assigned to group therapy, which has no research-validated ability to resolve PTSD. I hope the app comes bundled with Angry Birds.

So here it is: I like horses, and dogs, and clever apps, all of which I love without question; they are great, but they don't heal PTSD. Why can't we just put an end to this nonsense, and all the other stalls, misleads, and plain goofy ideas concerning how to "heal" form PTSD. Let's just, please, get these folks some psychotherapeutic treatment, and soon. It does work, you know.

And now perhaps you can see why I'm not especially interested in being nice or tactful. That request I just wrote? Worthless. Utterly worthless. Won't get anyone's attention. Won't change a thing.

Time to get pissed. Really pissed. What have we got to lose? Maybe some waiting time? That would be a great start.

Connect with Tom Cloyd also at Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, his Sleight of Mind blog, his Trauma Psych blog, or his professional website.

Image credit: gravyphig/license (slightly cropped)

APA Reference
Cloyd, T. (2014, February 12). Healing PTSD: Dogs, Horses, Apps . . . and BS, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, April 8 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/2014/02/healing-ptsd-dogs-horses-apps-and-bs



Author: Tom Cloyd, MS, MA

Dr. Michelle R. King
May, 11 2014 at 8:25 am

Hi Tom,
Nice article- In reference to the VAs and their equine therapy programs, these may not exist, necessarily. I am aware of some volunteer programs in the civilian community where veterans and non-veterans are welcome to participate in equine therapy, yet these are private, non-profit organizations, and not associated with the VA. It is certainly possible that some exist unbeknownst to me. If you are aware of such, I'd be interested in that information.
With respect to the VA canine therapy program, this is all volunteer with certified therapy dogs (including my own dog), that accomplish this. Our dogs and we arrive at the VA on our scheduled dates, and meet each veteran for a period; yet again, the dog's owner finances the training, and our time spent is through the volunteer services.
It makes me wonder what the money was all about in your article. Any ideas?

Jenny
March, 21 2014 at 6:35 pm

Thank you very much Tom for your quick answer. Your replies are appreciated and helpful.

Jenny
March, 20 2014 at 2:54 pm

Thank you Tom for your reply and for sharing all of your valuable insights with us. I would like to ask if the TFCBT Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is effective to heal trauma?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

March, 20 2014 at 6:54 pm

It sure is. That's the name given to a whole class of treatment models, actually. A similar name, for the same group, is "Trauma-informed CBT". Some people attempt to deal with PTSD and related problems by addressing symptoms. Big mistake. That's like giving morphine for a broken leg, instead of setting the bone and wrapping the leg in a cast so the bone can do its magic healing thing. Therapy that actually heals addresses the trauma memory - and that IS the problem. The trauma passes, but the memory lingers, alive and kicking, as it were. Address that correctly, and the brain heals itself. Needless to say, there is a craft to this. It's not just about applying some magic method. We're more complicated than that.
You might like to read a book review I wrote on one of my other blogs -
http://thetraumapsych.wordpress.com/2013/09/24/update-ptsd-asd-treatment-guidelines-updat…
The book is a very careful and thoughtful review of trauma treatment methods by an entirely respectable group of professionals. First class information. And their publications are available, free, online. Their website is set up for non-professionals, which is wonderful, and they have some publications downloadable there that are also written at that level, but many people can also get benefit from reading the stuff written from professionals. Just skip the parts you don't understand!
Also, if you're up for looking at some professional level material, there's an extraordinary new book out that I cannot recommend highly enough - Unlocking the emotional brain -
http://www.amazon.com/Unlocking-Emotional-Brain-Eliminating-Reconsolidation/dp/0415897173…
It's not cheap, but it's worth every penny. It offers a general, evidence-based model which accounts for why certain therapy approaches resolve traumatic memory and all the others do not. It offers a number of examples of how different therapy models all work to produce the same result. SE is not on their list, but it's not realistic that they cover absolutely everything. One problem with SE is the lack of research on it. That really needs to be fixed, but no one seems all that interested.
Your curiosity and desire to learn more is a very good thing. Feed that and you'll greatly increase your chances of getting what you want, on your healing journey.
You have my best wishes.

Jenny
March, 7 2014 at 10:51 am

Please, I would like to know if Somatic Experiencing is an effective treatment for PTSD. Thank you.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

March, 19 2014 at 5:12 pm

Jenny, please accept my apologies for having somehow not seen your comment until today. I appreciate your taking time to ask your question. Here is what I know: Dr. Peter Levine, the developer of the Somatic Experiencing (SE) model, is a very bright fellow, and his books on his approach are wonderful. I just got his most recent one - "In an unspoken voice" and I recommend it. He also has a nice, small book, with a CD - "Healing trauma", which might be a good first choice.
I have looked for some time for research on SE, and I have yet to find a single formal evaluation of its effectiveness. Yet one can easily find glowing reports about it, and I've hearing them and reading them for over a decade. This model NEEDS formal evaluation, using the same approaches which have well-validated EMDR and Prolonged Exposure, the two best validated models for PTSD (and related disorders) treatment.
That said, there are certain basics to all good trauma therapy: one must establish a strong sense of being safe NOW, and then into that bring your unprocessed memory of the trauma. HOW this is done, and then managed is the craft of the trauma therapists. Mere models aren't hard to learn. Their appropriate and effect use is - it takes at least 3 years, and you should have graduate training in psychotherapy before attempting this, because trauma therapy can be complicated.
My overall sense is that SE, in the hands of an experienced therapist, should work quite well. But I have not used it myself, or seen it used, or talked to anyone who has, so what I can say about it is limited to what I've read.
I trust you know of Levine's website - http://traumahealing.com/. And you might want to download this nice paper on SE.
I wish you good fortune on your healing journey. I hope my response is in some way helpful to you!

d
February, 23 2014 at 9:15 am

Im just an ordinary person who experienced a life tragedy, received therapy, and have 2 dogs. Yes, therapy helped. It was exhausting. Then there were my dogs...who I could love and cuddle with and cry with. As an ordinary person, yes of course you have valid points about "Real therapy." But to dismiss the effect of animal therapy is ignorant, I believe, on your part. My opinion. The person who wrote about horse therapy Im sure is someone who doesnt get paid much, probably volunteers much more of their time than they are paid for, and is trying to make a difference for those who really respond to the gentleness and nonverbal relationship with animals. And I DID look up that website, It IS valid. Why is it important to you to dismiss that person's efforts? And demeaning it as my "degreed" way or no way? In my opinion, those who use animal therapy to help others get over a traumatic life event, have their own valid "treatment" through experience, and kindness. I don't know, it just bugged me...i volunteer with my dogs at various facilities, and I KNOW it makes a difference. It did for me, personally.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

February, 24 2014 at 11:35 pm

D - thank you for your comment. Allow me to clarify, as I have in my comments to others, above. I do NOT "dismiss the effect of animal therapy". I love animals fiercely and always have. I'd love everyone with PTSD to have one or more comforting animals in their life. Why not? It's a wonderful idea. But, $20,000 therapy dogs? No, to that I object. That money could be healing someone, and it's only comforting.
I do NOT dismiss the efforts of those who use animals, benefit from animals, work with animals, etc. At no point in my piece do I do that. You misread what I wrote.
What I say is simple: animal therapy does not eliminate PTSD. When you're done, you still have PTSD. THAT is the problem.
I absolutely agree that taking dogs around to various facilities is a wonderful activity for all concerned, including the dogs. I strongly encourage people to do this, especially when children are involved.
BUT do not let this distract you from the central issue: identifying who need real PTSD therapy, finding someone who can actually deliver that therapy, and then seeing that treatment occurs. This is my central focus, personally, and I wish it could be the focus of many other people. Resources are limited. We cannot do everything. Let's get people healed above all other priorities. The importance of that idea is what my piece was all about.
That's why Dr. Ricky Greenwald responded with way he did, in the very first comment to this piece. He's internationally known and an expert. He agreed with me - without qualification. That's worth thinking about.

Deb
February, 23 2014 at 4:08 am

I agree withTom Cloyd MS MA essentially that animals and apps along with a plethora of pseudopsychological treatments do not heal PTSD. However, I am septical about his claim that PTSD can be fully healed. PTSD can be manageable even put firmly in remission; however if the patient is exposed to unexpected, similiar circumstances the PTSD will return. I, unfortunately, do not have research to prove my point only antedoctal experience. All that said I do believe that EMDR and PE are the best therapeutic methodologies. Yet I also feel that therapy with animals can be useful as an adjunctive therapy especially with patients who are just beginning treatment.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

February, 24 2014 at 11:12 pm

Deb - thanks for your comment. Allow me to respond.
I think the main problem with ancillary interventions which do not heal is that there is no clearly defined concept of "healing". I offer one in my post, and am very specific in my next post after the one to which you are responding. By the reasonable definition I give in that post, PTSD definitely can be completely healed. I've done it more times than I can count, and I am hardly alone.
Those who have been healed tend to drop out of sight. Their dilemma is over, and they just get on with life. They don't usually make a big deal of it, so you don't hear about it. But the research is clear: Most people who enter PTSD therapy in which EMDR or PE (Prolonged Exposure) is the treatment model, IF they are dealing with a competent therapist, get healed. You can trust this.
If PTSD "comes back" it was never healed in the first place. With my clients, we do a simple test a week after we treat a trauma memory. This test either proves we "got it done", or there is a bit more to dig out and heal - which does happen, especially when childhood trauma is involved. No big deal. We just find the problem and fix it, typically.
Cases I've seen where PTSD healing does not occur fall into four categories: (a) incompetent therapist (wrong therapy model, inadequate experience, or just not clever enough to know how to use the treatment); (b) unwilling client (wouldn't do the therapy, left prematurely); (c) complex childhood trauma (which can definitely be dealt with, but it's a "whole other animal", as it were, and takes skill, patience, and a certain degree of luck); or (d) failure to locate all sources of PTSD (can easily happen when implicit memory trauma is involved). As has been said many times, a competent therapist plus a ready-to-work client will get something very major accomplished. Research shows this; my own clinical experience does too.
With your last sentence, I agree. However, that does not justify spending $20,000 to train a therapy dog, or the high cost of animal therapy involving horses. Throw that money into paying for therapy. I've never needed to add animals to my work to get the job done. That pretty much says it all, I think.

Chrissy
February, 22 2014 at 4:57 pm

So this intrigued me. I've been dealing with ptsd since childhood and have yet to be successful in treating it. EMDR had been marginally helpful, but I have not had the opportunity to try PE (though have heard about it and would like to give it a try if I could find a clinician i can afford. Even another "real" go at EMDR would be worth a try - I had started but then moved across the country and cannot find anyone affordable to continue with). I find most treatments that are recommended by the community mental health system involve dbt (something I have failed miserable at 7 times and no longer an willing to risk it) or group day programs while heavily medicated (also has ended up causing more harm than good). How do you get through childhood trauma in (more than) 12 weeks but less than a lifetime? I have to admit, I'm big on animal assisted therapy because they bring me lots of comfort, but i still haven't found relief from all the PTSD symptoms. Are the two treatments mentioned in the comments the alternatives to the apps and animal - assisted therapy (my whole reason for commenting was going to be to ask about the evidence - based treatments because you never actually mentioned them in your blog).
I also have to agree that most PTSD treatment is military-focused and therefore leaves out a whole mess of sufferers. It's the same with help in finding affordable and effective treatment...

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

February, 24 2014 at 10:58 pm

Chrissy - thanks for you detailed and thoughtful comment. (I saw your edit, and inserted it, you'll notice.) I have a number of comments.
Sorry for not naming the two well validated treatments, in my blog post. As the review to which I refer you below does mention, in detail, and also my reply to Susan's comment (above), they are EMDR and PE (Prolonged Exposure). There are a few others that also work, but the evidence base is by far the best for those two. EMDR appears to be gentler and better tolerated, and may also be a bit quicker.
No treatment modality is magic. They all depend upon the skill of the therapist, and that requires intelligence, good training, and adequate clinical experience. Personally, I would generally refer only to a therapist with at least two years trauma treatment experience, trained either in EMDR (my preference) or PE, and who specializes in trauma, rather than just doing it whenever the need arises. Trauma therapy is complex. A specialist is simply your best bet.
DBT is a great therapy, but NOT FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL TRAUMA. It is NOT recommended for this problem by any professional review I've ever read, and I've read quite a few. I suggest you look at this review I wrote of a very good recent review of therapies. It should inform you quite well.
Day treatment may have value as an opportunity for stabilization, but it is otherwise not a PTSD treatment modality.
Childhood trauma is a complex situation. It ALWAYS requires a seriously experienced therapist. There's just too much to know, and too much going on with the client. With this in the picture, I'd look for someone whose been specializing in trauma treatment for at least FIVE years. Seriously.
I've worked with a lot of childhood trauma (it's more common than many realize), and we can get major symptom reduction that is permanent, and about half the time a complete and permanent remission of symptoms.
I wish you all the best in your healing journey. I hope that my comments may assist you in being successful.

KLM
February, 22 2014 at 3:34 pm

I agree that substitute stuff will not heal PSTD, but can it not help people see that there are other things in life to enjoy besides their pain? Some people may never be healed by talk therapy either, but they can adapt to value their lives more than the people or situations that caused their pain. Is it possible that healing, in the strict sense of the word, depends upon self-worth before traumas occurred?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

February, 24 2014 at 10:39 pm

KLM - thanks for your comment. First, let's establish a reasonable definition for healing. Aside from what I wrote above about this, I've also done that in my blog post that went up a short while ago - Psychotherapy, Religion, and Brain Effects of Trauma. I encourage you to review that, so you know what more about how I think about healing.
Your point about the ancillary value of things which don't heal is one I surely agree with. As I say in my post above: "I like horses, and dogs, and clever apps, all of which I love without question; they are great, but they don’t heal PTSD." I certainly didn't say that these ancillary things could not be helpful - not at any point. I just said that they don't heal, which that is correct.
Your last question is interesting. It does seem to be true that self-worth relates positively to such things as deciding to seek therapy, sticking with it, and probably even getting results. However, I don't see this as justification for diverting hundreds of thousands of dollars, which could pay for effective therapy, to activities which do not in any sense heal. Professionally, I've simply never had to bring in an animal in order to heal PTSD. (I do like the idea of having a "therapy dog" in my office, however! I like dogs a lot.)

Peggy
February, 18 2014 at 8:24 pm

Amen!

susan crisp, ms, lrt,
February, 18 2014 at 1:53 pm

hi tom,
just read ur article, thanks for sharing! I know nothing about apps or their efficacy in treating ptsd. I do, however know quite a bit about partnering with horses and other animals as treatment modality for ptsd and other mental health issues. Utilizing animals, as with other experiential modalities is as effective as more traditional CBT models. The bonus for many individuals being treated is the benefit of tactile stimulatioln, fresh air, physical exercise and less stress ie 'fun' on retraining thr brain and behavior connection. for more info u might see www.eagala.com

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

February, 19 2014 at 12:11 am

Susan - Thanks for commenting. I appreciate having your thoughts. I have to voice concern, however, about your claim that treatments involving animals are "as effective as more traditional CBT models".
We have two sorts of claims about PTSD treatments: personal ("anecdotal") reports and data-driven controlled research ("controlled" meaning that experimental design or statistical methods are used to remove the effect of extraneous variables and placebo effect).
Anecdotal reports are necessarily suspect. Anyone can claim anything. Who do you believe? But that's the wrong question. It's not about belief, it's about knowledge. Knowledge involves assertions that are logically derived and based on truthful premises. Mere claims cannot be trusted. Only claims validated through carefully analysis can be.
If I claim to be able to treat PTSD, it makes sense that an objective examination would validate my claim. That validation would verify that my "results" are not due to, say, placebo effect; that PTSD really was present initially and NOT present after the treatment; and that these results can be obtained by others, using my procedure.
To my best knowledge, as well as that of a number of governmental organizations and agencies who have made it their business to investigate claims of PTSD treatment effectiveness, there are only two well-validated treatment procedures - EMDR and Prolonged Exposure (PE). There are several others which have decent research support, but not yet enough to rise to the level of certainty we have about EMDR and PE.
Then there a number of interventions which we may presume make people feel better, assist with social re-integration, and so on. This is all great stuff, but it is NOT PTSD treatment, because, at the end of the day, the PTSD is still there.
If you have a procedure which involves animals and appears to fully (or even partially) eliminate PTSD, and data supporting its effectiveness, let me know, or provide me with source citations, and I'll happily write about it here and elsewhere. To my best knowledge such procedures simply do not exist. If you think you know otherwise, then your first step is to write up and publish a case report of the procedure, so that other professionals can examine the procedure.
I am well aware that there are treatment procedures for PTSD in current use which are quite effective and which have not been subjected to formal research. It's not easy to know what's going on with these procedures, but most of which I have any knowledge all appear to use components in common with the well-researched and validated procedures, and so appear to be mere variants. None require animals or any kind.
As someone with considerable experience treating PTSD, I have to insist that people not make false claims about what does and does not work. This is not some big mystery. We have good information on this. We just need to make it known.
(I tried your link, by the way, but came up with nothing.)

Cindy
February, 23 2014 at 4:17 am

Tom, It seems you have a very strong opinion on your treatment for PTSD. I suffer from PTSD and have been in cognitive therapy for years and have also experienced EMDR. I feel that it's a tool to learn how to deal with the traumatic memories, but not a cure. I also believe, just as certain psychiatric medications work for one person, they don't work the same for someone else. I have horses, and have experienced first hand what these animals do for me. Horses are not animals that give unconditional love. They are prey animals and for them it's fight or flight. The exact same emotions associated with PTSD. They mirror emotions. And by this "mirroring" of a person's emotion, it also teaches them how to change or adjust themselves to cope with their trauma. Please be open minded enough to educate yourself as a professional to what Susan Crisp and EAGALA are doing successfully using horses for PTSD and other mental health illnesses. I don't know Susan, but I also volunteer at a therapeutic riding facility and I have seen some amazing transformations in short periods of time. It's a disservice to anyone with mental illness to disregard any form of therapy. Mental health "consumers" are individuals and need to be treated by a professional with an open mind. Closed minds are what create the "stigma" of mental health treatment.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

February, 24 2014 at 11:27 pm

Cindy - thanks for you comment. You're right. I do have strong opinions about PTSD treatment. It's my specialty. I've studied it and practiced it for years. I have a substantial knowledge base from which to speak. I know that animals don't heal PTSD, but that certain psychotherapies can and do. This is NOT a belief. I have my clinical records, which involve post-treatment testing, and a very substantial body of research done all over the world by other people to back my strong opinions.
I'm sorry to hear of your struggle with PTSD. There is nothing that is a sure cure for anyone, not in medicine and not in psychotherapy. You are correct, I think, in stating that response to treatment varies with the individual. That said, I personally have a high success rate with PTSD, and the records to prove it. I'm not alone. But then I use methods in which I'm well trained and experienced, and which are research-validated. I SHOULD get excellent results.
I think your description of the potential benefits of working with animals is probably the best I've ever read. Seriously. It likely applies only to horses (since dogs are not predated animals), but your idea is very sound. Nothing I wrote in my blog piece contradicts what you've written about that.
But treatment is NOT about learning to "cope". THAT is symptom management, palliative care. It's like giving morphine for a broken leg. Helps but does not heal.
My piece is about what heals and what does not. Animal therapy is NOT PTSD treatment. It does not heal. It comforts, calms, helps with socialization, etc. This is all good, but hardly justifies the high cost of the animals, which could be applied to therapy with a competent professional who could just get the job done and then send you home. Why settle for less?
I'm hardly closed-minded. Instead, I'm a hard-nosed evidence based therapist who will NOT give you BS. It think it's simply unethical to mislead people into thinking that interventions which do not and CANNOT heal PTSD are a wise investment. If you can afford both, then pay for your own therapy then take the rest of your funds and help some poor single mother who's a sexual abuse victim and cannot afford therapy to get some. THAT makes sense. Spending it on horses? Not so much, to my way of thinking. You must do what you think best, of course.
I want to see people comforted by being healed, not by encountering an animal. There's a world of difference, if you think about it.

Ricky Greenwald
February, 12 2014 at 7:48 pm

This sure needs to be said, over and over. So many well-meaning people investing resources in somewhat helpful efforts that don't really get the main job done. When we actually do know how to get the main job done, rather well and rather efficiently.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

February, 12 2014 at 11:53 pm

Thank you Ricky. I appreciate your reading and commenting, and especially do I appreciate your support.
For those of you who don't know Ricky Greenwald PsyD, he's one of the world's leading authorities on trauma therapy, and well known for his work with EMDR. While he's a child and adolescent specialist, his work includes people of all ages, especially in his writing (multiple books) and research. Of great importance, I think, is the fact that he has recently developed a direct, efficient, fairly easy-to-teach protocol for treating trauma which early research indicates is at least as good as EMDR, while being much easier to teach, easier for clients to accept, and significantly quicker in getting the job down. It's called Progressive Counting, and he has an excellent new book out about it. I'll be reviewing it at length in the relatively near future.

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