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Psychological Assistance to Veterans

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  • Pages: 7
  • Word count: 1582
  • Category: Veterans

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All 14 patients treated with neurofeedback had decreased their medication requirements through follow-up. Among traditionally treated patients, only one patient decreased medication needs, two reported no change, and 10 required more psychiatric medications. This shows that not only is neurofeedback a proven, effective treatment option for veterans, but may also allow them to not be dependent on medication for their PTSD diagnosis and related symptoms of anxiety, depression, suicide risks, substance abuse, and accidental overdoses. On the MMPI (test for psychiatric issues), neurofeedback training patients improved significantly on all 10 clinical scales, while there were no significant improvements on any scales in the traditional treatment group.

I would also like to mention that some veterans come home from combat-related psychological trauma and may have encountered horrific experiences of Military Sexual Trauma or MST. The U.S Department of VA refers to sexual assault as repetitive threats of sexual harassment that occurred while the Veteran was in the military. This can include any sexual advancements in which a person is involved against their will. The veteran may have been pressured into sexual activities by coercion and also may have been unable to consent to sexual activities (e.g., when intoxicated). This could also include being physically forced into sexual activities. Other experiences that fall into the category of MST include unwanted sexual touching or groping; threatening, offensive remarks about a person’s body or sexual activities; and/or threatening or unwelcome sexual advances. The Department of Veterans Affairs acknowledges that this can happen to males and females within their Military service. It is also stated throughout the website that there are free services to those who have experienced this type of trauma during their service.

How veterans can benefit from NFB in therapy?

Neurofeedback works to alleviate some of the stressful and dysfunction of the PTSD symptoms. When a person starts to use neurofeedback treatment, the person will encounter points of decreased stress levels when their brain waves start to move together and work synchronously. In addition to the decreased stress levels, this allows the person to work on other dysfunctional symptoms such as making rational decisions. Neurofeedback helps with this in the way that it clears up the connectivity issues between neurons that help make the decision in everyday life. By clearing up the connectivity issues, the person can more rationally think about all possible choices and all the consequences. In a study on a military base with over 500 veterans that were diagnosed with moderate to severe PTSD, participants actively trained 1-3 times a week with neurofeedback. Symptom severity was evaluated each week with the PTSD symptom checklist. Among 75% of the participants reported a significant clinical reduction in their psychological, cognitive, psychophysiological and physiological symptoms after neurofeedback treatment (Lake, 2017).

Using neurofeedback, it has been shown that those who suffer from PTSD can drastically decrease the symptoms they experience through at least twenty sessions of neurofeedback. In a study with individuals who had chronic PTSD, their symptoms were measured at baseline, during treatment and post-treatment (Gerin, Fichtenholtz, et al., 2016). Their Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) scores before treatment were in the severe-to-extreme symptom ranges. Neurofeedback produced decreased symptoms when compared to participants who did not receive neurofeedback treatment for their PTSD. A 10-point decrease on the CAPS score is considered a reliable marker of significant changes in symptoms of PTSD. Two out of the three participants experienced a drop of 47 and 34 points respectively in their scores and were considered having a significant drop in CAPS scores after treatment. It is also shown in some studies that neurobiological changes can be seen through monitoring brain wave activity after neurofeedback treatment (Van Der Kolk, 2006.) When a veteran receives the treatment they need and it is effective, this can, in turn, improve other areas of their life. When they are alleviated from the stressful symptoms of PTSD, they can return to having healthy relationships with the people who care about them. This will improve the overall wellbeing of the veteran, their children and spouses, friends and family, and everyone who is involved with the veteran receiving PTSD treatment. Neurofeedback helps to restore psychological functioning through improved brain wave connectivity which results in improved relationships and support systems for everyone involved and willing to help the veteran overcome their problems. There are a few thing veterans should experience after neurofeedback training according to Bill and Cora Scott, founders of BrainPaint Neurofeedback Alpha-Beta training. The feelings of being emotionally connected, having increased the feeling of security, ability to access repressed memories, being vigilantly observant, and having less fear in setting and achieving new goals are all expected results from using neurofeedback as PTSD treatment (BrainPaint, ptsd-treatment.info).

How are PTSD and NFB related?

What is systems theory?

To be able to comprehend something completely, it must be examined from a global approach. Similarly, for something to work properly as a whole, the parts that make up the whole must be in a certain order or working in a certain way. Their relationships or connections between the parts and whole are important because, without those relationships, the whole system would not work properly. This relates directly to functioning as a healthy human being. When considering someone who is healthy, we would most likely observe that the person can self-regulate their emotions, are able to cope and function in ways that are not detrimental to their well-being and ability to make good, rational decisions in their daily lives. They would also be able to have healthy relationships with their spouses, children, family, and friends. Whenever the connections are strained, for example when someone is stressed, it may cause other parts of the body to suffer. This can include a weakened immune system, feelings of extended fatigue, unexplained irritability and the inability to concentrate. We notice these symptoms of stress when someone cannot think rationally and clearly, when they are not motivated to help solve the cause of their stress, have strained relationships with their loved ones, and have physical health problems. Stress can also lead to heart disease, chronic headaches, sudden death and make it harder to recover from an illness.

How do NFB and PTSD work within the idea of Systems Theory?

There are many other therapies right now that are used for PTSD treatment. This includes the Prolonged Exposure, Cognitive Processing Therapy, and Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. These therapies can include exposure to previous traumatic events that are stressful for the veterans that are suffering from severe PTSD, talking therapy, and using eye movements essentially for self-regulation. Although this can help some veterans who have experienced traumatic events, there are many other veterans that have come home from combat who find this too traumatizing to revisit. Therefore, PTSD without neurofeedback can be crippling and may even have our veterans thinking that there is no therapy or help for them. Without neurofeedback, veterans with severe cases of PTSD may not understand some of the symptoms they are experiencing and would not be able to formulate into words what they are living with to other traditional professionals practicing PE, CPT, and EMDR. With neurofeedback, professionals can assess and monitor areas in the brain that may be related to the veteran’s symptoms they are experiencing and didn’t know how to express in words. By asking the veterans if they experience these symptoms, such as not being able to recognize familiar faces, not being able to stay asleep, being on edge and panicking every time they hear sounds that remind them of combat could be the very thing that changes their daily lives as civilians. Veterans living with PTSD and not getting therapy treatment that involves neurofeedback would also affect their families. Consequently, family members being affected will also alter their own lives. Examples of this could be spouses being upset at work after experiencing episodes from their loved ones with PTSD. Their effectiveness at work would be decreased, as well as their focus and concentration. They may even feel the need to be absent from work to care for their loved one. This can also affect children in their peer relationships, in the teacher relationships at school, in their school work, with their concentration and focus, their anxiety and could even cause depressive episodes in themselves from what they have witnessed in result from a veteran with untreated PTSD. These veterans will experience strained relationships with their peers, their family, their spouses and their children without proper treatment from a competent professional.

I would also like to mention the different scientific evidence neurofeedback is based upon. These disciplines consist of cognitive psychology, neuroscience, brain imaging, neuropsychology, and neurobiology. Not to mention, computer science as a way of programming the software that runs neurofeedback sessions and determines protocols. Neurofeedback is based upon neuroimaging databases that compare normative brain structures and brainwave activity to the relative age, gender, and handedness of the veteran being seen. Another very important implication among neuroimaging studies of traumatized people also includes executive functioning, this is related to us being able to plan ahead and consider appropriate actions, is said to be compromised (Davidson, 1998a). This relates directly to the neuroscience of structure makeup of our brain because certain areas are used for certain functions. Neurofeedback also depends greatly on the field of neurobiology to understand structures, function, and connectivity between the two to determine the best course of action and protocols for different clients.   

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