Veterans protest the gutting of West L.A. PTSD therapy groups

We'd like to draw your attention to this letter to the editor of the LA Times, written by Wellness Works Board President Clifford K. Ishigaki in response to an article published December 29, 2018 regarding the dwindling support of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on PTS therapy groups. "This is where groups are crucial in creating the supportive bridge to a civilian life. [...] We believe our veterans deserve relief from symptoms and guidance in becoming part of the civilian world again. We owe our women and men full-service treatment."


Full text of letter below, from LA Times Website:

To the editor: Post-traumatic stress disorder has medical components that are factual and require treatment, but there is one component that the Department of Veterans Affairs has difficulty measuring for effectiveness: affiliation, or group membership. (“Veterans protest the gutting of West L.A. PTSD therapy groups,” Dec. 29)


The military trains its men and women in units, and when veterans return from conflict, there is an assumption that if we reduce the symptoms of PTSD, they will automatically know how to affiliate with their families, colleagues, friends and others. We assume that they will know how to be a member of the civilian “unit” again.


But many veterans have difficulty. This is where groups are crucial in creating the supportive bridge to a civilian life. How do we measure the effectiveness of these groups? They do not fit the models of time-based programs that are designed to show improvement on specific symptoms at the conclusion of treatment. Measuring healthy membership in the civilian world requires both observational and personal feedback from the veteran. It requires more labor.


The crucial question for those managing PTSD programs is whether symptom reduction is their goal, or whether they want to focus more broadly on integrating veterans back into the civilian world with healthy bodies, emotions, minds and even spirits.

At the nonprofit organization where I am board president, we made the decision to treat symptom relief and provide for affiliation and membership transitioning. This requires both the skill of clinicians and the guidance of trained group therapists. We believe our veterans deserve relief from symptoms and guidance in becoming part of the civilian world again. We owe our women and men full-service treatment.


Clifford K. Ishigaki, Rancho Santa Margarita

The writer, a retired U.S. Marine captain and Vietnam War veteran, is board president of Wellness Works for Veterans in Glendale. He is also a recovering PTSD patient.


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