Advancing treatment for PTSD

    Veterans Affairs clinicians will learn about exposure therapy for PTSD treatment.

    Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania say they’re helping to modernize the care available to veterans struggling with the emotional problems.

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    Recent veterans have complained that the Department of Veterans Affairs has been slow to respond to the mental health needs of America’s newest returning troops. Penn psychologist Elizabeth Hembree has heard those complaints, but says she sees changes, too.

    Hembree: I think that the VA and the government is taking some hits these days, but they are trying to move the treatment practices in the VA forward. The field has progressed an awful lot since the Vietnam War.

    Hembree and colleagues are part of a roll out that could bring exposure therapy to VA hospitals across the country. During treatment, patients confront the memory of traumatic events, situations and places they’ve been avoiding.

    Hembree: And in doing this exposure the person has really wonderful opportunities to learn things that help them to achieve a realistic perspective on the traumatic event.

    Hembree says that process can help ease the symptoms that keep people with PTSD from participating fully in life.

    Patients also learn that traumatic events — like combat or sexual assault — often lead to intrusive thoughts and distressing emotions. Hembree says many people realize, for the first time, that those reactions are part of the anxiety disorder.

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