Published: June 25, 2012
For University of South Florida researchers studying the effectiveness of a new therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder, these are promising times.
They've just published the results of an initial study that indicates the treatment, accelerated resolution therapy, seems to work. The Department of Defense and the university have just given approval to test active-duty service members, a major restaurateur has kicked off a fundraising campaign and a Navy reserve station in Las Vegas now will serve as a satellite study center.
It all comes at a time when Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says research into suicide prevention is one of the Department of Defense's main weapons in the fight against suicide, which kills more troops than the Taliban.
"With all of these things coming together, it looks like we are that much closer to getting a more efficient evidence-based treatment into place that will actually eliminate the traumatic response to memories and bring relief to the troops and their families," said one of the researchers, Carrie Elk, a psychologist and military liaison for the USF College of Nursing, which conducted the initial therapy studies.
* * * * *
The executive officer of a Navy reserve unit at MacDill Air Force Base was so impressed by a presentation Elk gave to his reservists last fall that when he took over a similar unit in Las Vegas in January, he invited her to talk to a group of Navy, Army and Marine reservists there. They liked the presentation so much that eight Army and Navy reservists signed up for the study, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Raul Rojas.
"In the past few years, more reservists have been on the ground on average than active-duty personnel," said Rojas, now the commanding officer of the Navy Operational Support Center at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas. "A lot of these guys have unresolved post-traumatic stress."
Rojas said that as reservists go through the demobilization process from active duty to reserve status, and only report for duty two days a month and two weeks a year, "the emphasis on them getting evaluated for post-traumatic stress just isn't there."
Rojas said the Marine Corps also has invited Elk to talk to them about accelerated resolution therapy.
Accelerated resolution therapy uses elements of existing cognitive behavioral therapies, as well as lateral sets of left/right eye movements designed to minimize anxiety and body sensations associated with recall of traumatic memories, and replace distressing images with favorable ones. The treatment often only takes one to five sessions to complete and does not use drugs.
The findings of an initial study of 80 participants — mostly civilians and a few veterans — were published in the June 18 edition of the scientific journal Behavioral Sciences. The results, said Kevin Kip, the study's principal investigator and article author, are encouraging.
"The majority of people who came in to be treated had very high scores for PTSD, and after treatment, the majority had very large reductions," he said. "And they also had reductions in other symptoms, like depression, as well as increased sleep."
The researchers have another study, of 80 veterans, Kip said. Now that the Department of Defense and USF have approved researching how the therapy works on active-duty members, Kip and Elk are seeking funds to bring at least 400 active-duty members into the study.
Accelerated resolution therapy has gained increasing interest from the military — Elk recently made a presentation to the U.S. Special Operations Command's Care Coalition annual conference — and First Lady Michelle Obama, who recently gave the therapy a shout-out.
It's also gained the support of restaurateur Chris Sullivan, co-founder of Outback Steakhouse. After being introduced to the therapy by a mutual friend of Elk's, Sullivan had several meetings with Elk, then listened to a veteran with PTSD talk about how the therapy worked for him. Last month, he launched a fundraising effort to collect $600,000 so Kip and Elk can bring 420 active-duty members into the study.
The therapy "is a game-changer for our veterans that are struggling with PTSD," Sullivan wrote in a recent email to potential donors.
Having the study approved for active-duty personnel gives Socom's Care Coalition "an avenue we haven't had before," said the coalition's chief of community outreach, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Hower.
"We anticipate people wanting this type of therapy," Hower said. "They can get therapy and back to work. It would not have to affect their lives for a long time with medication and treatment."
* * * * *
A day before Panetta told the Department of Defense/Veterans Administration suicide prevention conference that he wanted more scientific research to combat suicide, Elk met with Navy Capt. Paul Hammer, director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.
Hammer's job is to seek out new treatments and help expedite them from the study phase into practical use. While he said he can't comment on the value of the therapy, Hammer said the research done by Kip and Elk is a good first step.
"The great thing about what she is doing is she is doing it right," Hammer said. While a lot of people claim to have the next "big thing" to treat PTSD, it is rare to have those treatments backed by scientific study, he said.
Elk said she is going to continue to investigate the effectiveness of the treatment.
"We have a responsibility to help those who serve our country," she said.
Veterans who might be interested in taking part in the study can call 813-974-9310.
30 min Interview with Dr. Diego on mindfulness part of the USF series titled "Conversations with Mind Body Practitioners."
Yoga retreats offer healthy indulgence
Published: June 22, 2011
Endless margaritas, fried food at every meal and a week's worth of late-night partying can make you wish for a vacation from your vacation.
Or maybe you just need a different kind of indulgent escape to start with.
Like a yoga retreat.
"The whole purpose is that people can unplug and really get in touch with themselves," says clinical psychologist and mindful eating expert Diego Hernandez, who in July will accompany Tampa yoga teachers Dale Morphew and Shelly Happel to Pura Vida Spa Resort in Costa Rica, where they'll help folks recharge with daily meditation, yoga classes and outdoor adventures.
Hernandez will teach meditation and mindfulness techniques to help people soak up their experiences.
"We're able to participate in the adventure, we don't show up to perform and then leave," Hernandez says. "People have access to us — it's a nonthreatening way to do that; you know, instead of becoming a patient."
But what about those nights at the bar filled with imbibing? Isn't that what a vacation is supposed to be?
"We're a consumer culture, but people find it unfulfilling," Hernandez says. "Living for the moment is just indulgence, but living in the moment is indulgence and participation."
Of course, his retreat team (www.Facebook.com/TampaYogaRetreat) isn't the only one in town offering Zen-filled getaways.
Tampa-based yogi Jen Smith took her love of workshops and retreats and turned it into a members-only discount website called retreatyourselfwell.com.
Smith started the site because she wanted a good experience for yogis from start to finish.
"Many times on retreats, people call a studio, give their credit card to get charged thousands of dollars, and receive very little guidance until the airport shuttle plops them at the retreat location. It can be a little daunting," Smith says.
For $70 for six months, or $130 for a year, members can get discounts on well-researched workshops and area retreats, or find out about far-flung destinations like Bali.
"Retreats allow me to remove distraction and go further on many levels within my practice on and off the mat. I still reflect on a lot of my retreat moments for strength or inspiration in my day-to-day life," Smith says. "I guess you could say that retreating makes me more present when I get back to my 'real life.'"
If you don't have the time or money to send yourself on a faraway yoga vacation, you can you can still make plans at a local retreat or in other U.S. cities, where you can get classes for a discount through the Passport to Prana program.
At www.passporttoprana.com, a $30 passport entitles you to a free class at a plethora of participating studios. Enter "Retreat1" for a special $30 membership discount to Retreat Yourself Well.
Accelerated Resolution Therapy in the News
Research involving the use of Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) is just one of five studies investigating state-of-the art therapies to help service members and veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan heal from symptoms of combat exposure such as post traumatic stress and mild traumatic brain injury as part of the Research to Improve Emotional Health and Quality of Life among Service Members with Disabilities (RESTORE LIVES) Center at the University of South Florida College of Nursing.
News Channel 8
Bay News 9
The ART method is intended to help clients bring problems to a quick and effective resolution. The client uses back-and-forth eye movements, which integrate activities in the left and right sides of the brain, as their thoughts are focused by the psychological therapist. The revolutionary intervention employs a technique known as Voluntary Memory/Image Replacement, in which the client can replace a negative memory with a positive memory of their choice, or reinterpret the memory. Studies with non-veterans have shown that clients were able to resolve memories of painful or disturbing experiences in just one or two therapy sessions, and the RESTORE LIVES researchers will evaluate whether veterans experience this same level of benefit.
By HOWARD ALTMAN | The Tampa Tribune
Published: May 23, 2011
Can post traumatic stress disorder, suffered by one in five service members coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq and a contributing factor in suicides, homicides and drug addiction, be treated with the wave of a few fingers?
Researchers from the University of South Florida's College of Nursing believe it can. And they are using part of a $2.1 million U.S. Army grant to prove it.
The treatment is called accelerated resolution therapy. Discovered about four years ago by a Connecticut therapist named Laney Rosenzweig, it involves a therapist rhythmically waving fingers in front of a client's face to induce eye movements similar to those occurring during the deepest part of sleep.
Dissatisfied with other eye-movement therapies she deemed too passive, Rosenzweig says she "discovered something kind of revolutionary" — replacing mental images that can trigger post traumatic stress with other images.
"I call it voluntary memory/image replacement," she says. "If you go back and change the images from the trauma and they are gone, there is nothing to be triggered to."
The therapy came to the attention of USF researchers courtesy of the mother of Kevin Kip, head of research for the College of Nursing.
Kip says his mother knew he was looking for "novel methods" to treat psychological trauma. A few years ago, she read an article in a Connecticut newspaper and forwarded it to him.
Now, USF is poised to help determine if accelerated resolution therapy is a worthy treatment for those suffering as a result of their service.
* * * * *
For years, Jim Lorraine would "jump out of my skin" if suddenly approached on his right side.
The trauma was the result of a bad auto accident in 1981 and compounded by being an Air Force trauma nurse treating patients in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Haiti and elsewhere.
But then Lorraine, who retired in 2005 as a lieutenant colonel, experienced something that would change his life.
About seven months ago, Lorraine, then the director of the U.S. Special Operations Command's Care Coalition, was asked by Carrie Elk, one of the therapists studying the therapy, if he knew of any service members suffering from post traumatic stress disorder who might be looking for a treatment.
As director of an organization nationally recognized as a leader in helping wounded, ill and injured service members and their families, Lorraine says he wanted to check out the therapy first before recommending anyone take part.
"I was skeptical," he says. "Is this a snake oil salesman?"
So he sat down with Rosenzweig and underwent the treatment.
After about 90 minutes, he says, he couldn't recall the traumatic scene that caused him to react so strongly. So he recommended the therapy to some wounded special operations force members. It worked for them, as well.
Now Lorraine is a believer.
"I would recommend the treatment," Lorraine says.
If treating PTSD by waving fingers to induce eye movements sounds strange to you, it did to Elk, too.
Elk has a practice in Lutz and also works with Military OneSource, a Department of Defense program aimed at helping active-duty, Guard and Reserve service members and their families.
In August, introduced through mutual associates, Kip asked Elk to check out USF's trauma program and see Rosenzweig in action.
* * * * *
"I was very skeptical," Elk says. "At that time, I had been in the field of mental health since 1991, and to think that something could work so quickly just didn't seem reasonable to me."
Despite her doubts, Elk tried the therapy with one of her patients. The results, she says, were so good that she underwent the training herself, became certified to practice the technique and joined USF as an assistant professor, becoming the College of Nursing's military liaison and the study's co-investigator.
* * * * *
The prevalence of PTSD has the Army looking for ways to treat it.
"Because of the increasing concern over PTSD among our military members, this type of study is of interest to the Army," says Ashley Fisher, portfolio manager at the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center in Fort Detrick, Md. "If proven to be helpful, this therapy could better help veterans reintegrate back into society and improve their overall quality of life."
The center, which oversees the grant for the Army, reviewed the proposal "to ensure it was militarily relevant and technically valid/feasible prior to award," Fisher said.
In recent years, awareness of PTSD in the military has heightened, as well as attention paid to factors that cause it, says Maj. Ted Brown, preventive medicine physician at U.S. Central Command.
"As our focus is what is happening in theater, we have little input regarding research efforts" in the continental United States, Brown wrote in an email. He said he couldn't comment on the merits of the new treatment.
Last year, the Veterans Administration treated about 410,000 cases of PTSD, says Carri-Ann Gibson, chief of special programs for mental health and behavioral sciences at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa. Nationwide, about 20 percent of those returning from Afghanistan and Iraq reported symptoms of PTSD, she says.
Gibson says she can't comment about accelerated resolution therapy because "it is not a VA endorsed therapy."
"For me as physician, I need to make sure the treatment I am providing is well supported by scientific evidence," says Gibson. "The research has to be sound and strong."
The VA uses two therapies two treat PTSD — prolonged exposure and cognitive processing — both more intensive and lengthy than the new therapy being studied at USF.
Kip and Elk understand that the novelty of the treatment makes it difficult for the mental health community to talk about.
That's why they are conducting the study, which Kip integrated into a grant for the study of therapies dealing with trauma, mild traumatic brain injury and general health.
The study will be open to veterans who are not receiving health treatment for their disorder. Researchers will recruit 80 veterans, half of whom will be in a control group before undergoing the therapy.
* * * * *
Kip says he hopes to get final approval and begin the study by July and complete it before the deadline next March.
Lorraine says he hopes the study helps persuade the medical establishment that the treatment works.
"If this can work on someone the therapist never met and address something 30 years old in an hour and a half," he says, "imagine what you can do on the battlefield with someone you know."
If you are a veteran of Afghanistan or Iraq and are interested in taking part in the study, contact the USF College of Nursing at 813-97-9310.
According to Einstein, common sense is a collection of prejudices acquired by age 18. If, what he means by prejudice is a way of thinking and looking at life, then this is a pretty accurate observation. When we say common sense we mean common to most people. However, common sense is not so common. It is particular to the values and groups in which we were raised. For one group, it is common sense to finish high school and get a job. For another group, it is going to college. Yet another group plans for graduate school and becoming a professional. The values of different groups are evident in the common sense of each group.
When we think of how we look at food and everyday living, where is our nation’s common sense when it comes to our health? Nearly 70% of Americans are overweight and the number one cause of death in America is heart disease? If common sense is contributing to our health problems while lowering our quality of life and causing us to spend more money on treating illness, would it not “make sense” to improve upon our common sense? Maybe it is time to start thinking about our quality life and how we want to live. Maybe it’s time to spend our money on living well and preventing illness rather than spending money on heart medication & diabetes drugs after the “common sense” of America makes you ill. Perhaps it’s time to upgrade to common sense 2.0: A sustainable common sense health operating system for the 21stcentury. Balanced living is common sense 2.0 with wisdom inside.
Diego Hernandez Psy.D.
Please Select the link above for our workshops page
Printed in the March 2010 Tampa Bay Wellness.
When thinking of Buddha, one tends to picture an imposing laughing man with a rotund belly. Weight loss is likely the furthest thing from your mind. Yet modern science is making a connection between some of Buddha's teachings and weight loss. In fact, research suggests that in addition to providing peace of mind and improving health and wellbeing, meditative practices can also impact your waistline.
One such approach has been developed by Psychologist Dr. Jean Kristeller, a professor at Indiana State University, whose work was featured in the February 2009 issue of Time Magazine. For the past 20 years, Dr. Kristeller has studied the relationship between psychological variables, illness and health. The result of her life's work is a mindfulness approach to eating called Mindfulness Based Eating Awareness Training (MB-Eat). This approach has been studied through grants from the National Institute of Health at the University of Indiana, Duke University, and the University of Pennsylvania. The research demonstrates that mindfulness mediation can help individuals self-regulate eating behavior, lose weight, and maintain their results.
Mindful eating is a simple but radical approach to living that is not about depriving or overindulging one's self. With most diet programs, the more one struggles the more intense the struggle becomes. Diet plans tend to focus on the few things one is "allowed to have," which creates a sense of deprivation. Both overeating and diets tend to focus on the obtaining and eating food, rather than enjoying and experiencing it. When we sacrifice what our food has to offer for the temporary satisfaction of eating, the food we crave is not fully enjoyed. This eating behavior that is so well learned that we continue on the diet and indulgence treadmill, experiencing shame, blame and guilt, promoting the very behavior we want to change.
With mindful eating, one becomes more aware and accepting of the struggle with food and gains mastery over experiences by paying attention, noticing one's breath and being more present in the moment, as opposed to living for the moment. Mindful eating is a nonjudgmental approach that involves acceptance and dedicating special attention to one's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors towards eating. It is about attending to one's biological rhythms while learning the differences between those rhythms and emotionally driven, short-term desires. Mindful eating is about changing one's relationship with food so that one can fully experience the act of eating and savor the experience. Satisfaction is obtained through appreciating the joys and pleasures of eating rather than by the quantity of food. If Buddha spoke to us today about eating and dieting he would likely remind us that eating, like all pleasure, is temporary and short lived. Eating should be a cherished aspect of life, but not its focus.
Dr. Diego is among a hand full of professionals trained by Dr. Kristeller in the full MB-Eat program. He maintains a private practice in Westchase. To learn more about mindful eating and MB-Eat go to www.balancedlivingpsychology.com