A lot of people
have differing opinions as to how to best treat military veterans suffering
from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but they all agree on one thing: something
needs to be done to help.
That was the
point of Joshua Hayes’ presentation on April 4 at the 13th annual IUP Graduate
Scholars Forum at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex.
“Every day, an
average of 20 veterans commit suicide,” Hayes said. “This bothers me because
they risk their lives to protect us. So, it’s necessary to find … therapy to
student in the Counseling program, titled his project “Group Therapy for
Veterans with PTSD.” It was part of the annual forum that gives graduate
students the opportunity to put their research work on display for the IUP community
to learn from.
focused on creating a four-step process to help soldiers who are struggling
with the many symptoms of PTSD, which include emotional distress, night
terrors, and insomnia.
The first step
is group therapy, which will be built by using breakout sessions where veterans
could speak one-on-one with each other to share their experiences and concerns.
Those smaller sessions would make group therapy more comfortable for the
veterans, Hayes’ work shows.
“But that can
be hard because veterans are trained to contain their emotions,” Hayes said.
The second step
would be to use humor to help ease the suffering. This includes using props to
tell stories or to share photos that bring about humorous memories.
eliminates someone’s sense of humor,” Hayes said.
The third step
would be socialization, where the veterans would get to know each other’s
stories and see how much their lives since combat have been similar.
“It’s based off
existential therapy,” Hayes said. “You can use your own suffering to help
others. By doing that, you find a better sense of meaning.”
The final step
is to do a group activity that would help the veterans relive events without
reliving the trauma. One such activity could be shooting targets at a range because
it would allow the veterans to handle weapons in a way that didn’t include
Hayes offered was to have the veterans make a statement after each shot. If
they hit a red marker on the target, they offer an “I should” statement; a
yellow marker means an “I can’t” statement and; a white marker translates to an
“I can” statement.
“The goal is to
replace irrational thoughts with rational thoughts,” Hayes said.
Then at the end
of each session, the veterans would have a form to document their thoughts and
emotions, much like a journal. It would be used to track progress from start to
“You have to
bring awareness to your thoughts,” Hayes said. “You can’t change your thought
process without becoming aware.”