alternative treatments

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Therapy Used For Trauma, Chronic Pain Snubbed By Establishment

What does it take for the American Psychological Association to bless an alternative type of therapy?

It’s a question that Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Rick Leskowitz, director of the Integrative Medicine Project at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, has been asking for years.

Dr. Leskowitz sent me an email after I wrote about yoga for treating veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. He said that another approach, called Energy Psychology, a kind of psychological acupuncture without needles, is “the most impressive intervention I’ve encountered in 25 years of work.” I was intrigued.

From Facebook Fight to Alternative Treatment

One of his patients, Nicole McCarthy, told me that after she was hit by a car — intentionally, by a teenage driver — and suffered a traumatic brain injury, among other damage, Energy Psychology was the most effective treatment to heal her emotionally. McCarthy, a 41-year-old dancer, said the therapy allowed her to talk about the accident for the first time without hyperventilating and crying, and to overcome the deep fear and psychic trauma associated with the hit-and-run. (It occurred after a Facebook feud between her daughter’s teenage friends spiraled out of control). Just one session, she said, “was a life-altering experience for the better. It’s a tool I will use for the rest of my life.”

Dr. Leskowitz cites his own clinical experience and a growing number of studies showing the benefits of the practice. For instance, two recent studies involving combat veterans found that after six sessions of intensive Energy Psychology, the vets show marked relief from their PTSD symptoms.

The APA Just Says No

But the American Psychological Association says the science behind the therapy still isn’t adequate, and it won’t grant continuing education credits for training in Energy Psychology. Continue reading

Harvard, Brigham Study: Yoga Eases Veterans PTSD Symptoms

The words “Department of Defense” and “yoga” aren’t often uttered in the same breath, let alone in a long, conscious, exhale.

But preliminary results from a small study funded by the U.S. Defense Department, and led by a Harvard Medical School assistant professor, found that veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder showed improvement in their symptoms after ten weeks of yoga classes, including meditation and breathing, done twice a week, and fifteen minutes of daily practice at home.

William Haviland never considered himself a yoga kind of guy. He served in Vietnam in 1968 during the TET offensive. Ask him about his combat experience and out comes a torrent of trauma: “I remember the things that happened, I’ve seen people killed right before my eyes,” he says. Among his vivid recollections, more than 40 years after the fact: a sergeant lured into a booby-trapped village, then castrated by shrapnel; the screams of a woman being raped and tortured all night. “I have a stream of memories,” he says, many which come out during sleep. Haviland, 63, says he frequently attacked his wife in the middle of the night, after nightmares that he was being chased by a fast-approaching enemy. Yoga, he says “took me out of myself” and had a more profound calming effect than drugs or drinking.

“PTSD is a disorder involving dysregulation of the stress response system, and one of the most powerful effects of yoga is to work on cognitive and physiological stress,” says Sat Bir S. Khalsa, Ph.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and the principal investigator of the yoga study. Continue reading