PTSD and Family Treatment

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychological disorder a condition suffered by many people who have been the victim of or have witnessed a life-threatening or traumatic event. In the United States (U. S. ), soldiers returning from combative situations are most likely to be diagnosed with PTSD, but it also affects women and children. According to the American Psychiatric Association, PTSD symptoms include the experience of thoughts and memories related to the traumatic event, insomnia, elevated anxiety, irritability, aggression, and anger (APA, 1994) .

These symptoms can have a devastating effect on the family of the individual suffering from PTSD. Much time and research was dedicated to the development of treatment plans for both the veteran suffering from PTSD and the effected family. The treatment of PTSD depends on the individual client. If the client has a spouse, children, or other family included in his or her daily life, then it is strongly suggested that family therapy be included in the plan of treatment. This is especially important if the client has experienced any instance where the anger or aggression has become violent (Hall, 2008).

In treating the client, psychotherapy and medications are most often recommended. Individualized and Family Therapy The client should be assessed so that the therapist can determine which psychotherapy would best benefit and meet the needs of the client. Group Therapy shows the most promise for clients whose symptoms are minimally affected by their PTSD (Hall, 2008). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) used in conjunction with Exposure Therapy has proven to be successful in treating PTSD (Hall, 2008). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy focuses on retraining the client’s thought and feeling process.

This classic form of therapy teaches the client that certain thoughts should not produce specific feelings. Exposure therapy is performed by SOCIOLOGY 3 exposing the client to the situation that is most feared or known to arouse anxiety from within. This is done through imaginative suggestion or reality exposure. A group therapy session provides the client with an opportunity to listen to other veterans express their experiences and concerns.

It also gives the client an outlet to ask questions and share their own personal experiences. This particular therapeutic dynamic allows for the rebuilding of social skills and social interaction. Medications are also frequently used in treating the symptoms of PTSD. A certified member of the psychiatric community may make the determination of the need for medications when the client is experiencing a period of crisis or if the current method of therapy is moving too slow or there is a standstill in therapeutic progress.

Medication is sometimes necessary if there are other psychiatric disorders present in conjunction with the PTSD, if the PTSD symptoms are prolonged, or if there exists suicidal ideations on the part of the client (Hall, 2008). Excessive stress and stressors are also indicators that medication is needed in order to provide the client with the ability to function on a day-to-day basis. Family therapy involving a family member diagnosed with PTSD is designed to provide strength, support, and explanation to all involved in the family dynamic.

The family of an individual suffering from PTSD often report feeling emotionally hurt because of their lack of understanding of PTSD (Hall, 2008). Some have even suggested that their role in the family has changed from family member to that of a caregiver. Psychotherapy and anxiety management therapy are most accredited in these situations. It is essential that in the therapeutic family sessions for the therapist to outline some crucial factors to all family members. Before the family initiates therapy, the therapist should

SOCIOLOGY 4 make a domestic violence assessment. This serves to protect every family member, including the veteran with PTSD. First, the therapist should define the nonjudgmental boundaries which are to be respected in order to everyone to feel comfortable. A signal or a word can be designated as a sign to others that their boundary has been crossed. Emotional overload should be avoided especially where the veteran is concerned.

Second, the family should receive a psycho-education from the veteran concerning PTSD. This provides the client with the opportunity to explain what it is like emotionally to have PTSD and to define some of the recognized triggers. The family can then be directed as to how to develop specific coping strategies in reference to irritability, anger, displaced anger, and being supportive during a stressful episode (Hall, 2008). Finally, the family can address the issues involving anxiety. Each family member can be taught relaxation techniques, deep breathing exercises, and positive outlets for exerting the overabundance of anxiety.

With everyone working towards a positive goal, the family dynamic can be preserved and the client will stand a greater opportunity to recover from the PTSD. Conclusion Too often, veterans returning from combat situations fail to recognize their psychological breakdowns. Their symptoms linger in some cases for months, or longer, before the appropriate medical attention are sought. This comes often in the aftermath of losing a job, a divorce, or a recognized interference in social and personal function.

Physical, verbal, and psychological aggressions are common symptoms for veterans suffering from PTSD. These dysfunctional behaviors can have a negative effect on every relationship in the veteran’s family life. Family participation in therapy is crucial for the veteran to make a full recovery.

References American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association. Hall, L. (2008). Counseling military families: what mental health professionals need to know. New York, NY: Routledge.

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