The National Center for Veterans Studies (NCVS) at the University of Utah are curing veterans with PTSD and they’re doing it free of charge.
Founded in 2010 with the idea to improve the lives of service members and veterans, today, their ‘R & R program’ cures more than 75 percent of those who attend.
Dr. Craig Bryan, a clinical psychologist and NCVS’s executive director, was first exposed to veterans with PTSD while serving in Iraq as an Air Force psychologist.“It was while I was in Balad, Iraq that I was tinkering with some therapies to see what works,” says Bryan.
The therapy was aggressive and focused on reacting to combat stress. “We didn’t have the luxury of meeting an hour once a week.” Instead, Bryan met with patients multiple times a day and was amazed by the results.
Years later, when Bryan was at the NCVS, they partnered with the National Ability Center in picturesque Park City, Utah to begin treating vets with PTSD.
The ‘R & R program’ began with one patient who flew out to Park City in 2015. He went through aggressive cognitive processing therapy (CPT)—one of two PTSD treatments approved by the VA and DoD—in the mornings, and in the evenings was free to go horseback riding, skiing, or just taking in the natural beauty that Utah has to offer.
He left Utah two weeks later cured of his PTSD. “That set us on the path to really set this program in motion,” says Bryan.
The success was not just a one-off.
“We are getting extremely high recovery rates in this treatment,” says Bryan. Following up with participants over time, “the preliminary data collected suggests this program has an enduring effect.”
The NCVS is challenging a common myth that PTSD is only manageable, and not curable. Even within the mental health community, some therapists believe the best case scenario is to manage the symptoms.
“That is wrong, and we’ve known that is wrong for probably 30 years,” says Bryan.
“It is most tragic when health professionals tell their patients this, while at the same time saying come on in and meet with me once a week for the rest of your life.”
While traumatic events such as sexual assault, seeing a friend die, or experiencing combat can never be erased from our memory, Bryan says that the memory is different from PTSD. “PTSD is getting stuck, it is a condition that affects you on the neural, physical, and psychological level.”
But as the program’s success has shown, one can have a horrific memory and overcome PTSD.
To be a part of the program, veterans can email NCVS@utah.edu, or call (801) 587-7978. From there, trained staff talk veterans, and the next step is to participate in a phone interview focused on their symptoms. Bryan recommends that these interviews are conducted in a private setting, as the conversations involve discussing trauma.