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Monday, May 10, 2010

Belleruth Naparstek:Note to Colleagues: Please Stop Saying Post-Traumatic Stress Is Incurabel

If this were anyone but Belleruth, I would be going nuts, saying it's bullshit, but I know Belleruth.
She worked with one of the most effective and innovative PTSD programs in the country, (which of course the VA defunded and closed).
Transcend was a twelve week residential joint PTSD and Substance Abuse treatment program at the Brecksville VA in Ohio. There was a workshop on the Transcend Program at the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, probably in 1995, which I went to, and believe me these people, Beverly Donovan PhD and Edgardo Padin-Rivera had the right attitude, and so does Belleruth!
I reviewed the Transcend Treatment Manual and their Workbook for Veterans in the Post-Traumatic Gazette (V1N3, free online at near the bottom of the page. One of Belleruth's CD's is reviewed in V5, N2 of the Post-Traumatic Gazette).
Edgardo and Bev asked Belleruth to make them a guided imagery tape for the guys in the Transcend program. She did. It worked. It helped them. Now that one tape has blossomed into three pages of CD's that can help you heal from PTSD, (
Guided imagery reaches deep into the primitive areas of the brain, the parts that don't really speak English and can't tell time, so they don't know it is over. Those areas are where your non-verbal memories of the trauma are stored, triggering you over and over and over. If you can access them in talk therapy or write about them as Bob did, it turns them into regular narrative memories in your frontal lobes and they are much less distressing. I agree with her that often this is not enough. It can be going at the problem from the wrong end. Get your body calmed down and things will go better in life, and in therapy if you choose to pursue it.
If you can't talk about it (yet), as a lot of vets can't, do yourself a favor and read Belleruth's article and try some of her suggestions. They are working for veterans right now.
And when some future trauma comes along, if you find your symptoms coming back, don't think it didn't work: think it worked once and it will work again, and get more help.
That is my only problem when people say PTSD has been "cured." I know it can be radically improved by various therapies and treatments, but will it come back? Maybe. We don't know. Trauma is cumulative. So instead of saying it will never come back, tell them if it does, get more of what works! Because otherwise the vets just think they failed and they can't be helped.
BTW, eventually there is always a study saying that some good therapy or technique don't work, and when it comes out you can be sure that the treatment was applied in a rote way by VA staff who didn't believe in it and didn't want to do the work or for the treatment to work and probably thought all vets were whiners. That is why some really excellent treatments work at one VA and not so well at another one.


  1. Thanks, Patience, for posting this. I learn so much from you. I never realized that each VA Center is their own "little fiefdom."
    And I'm glad to learn of Belleruth Naparstek's work. So important and enlightening article.

  2. I loved that Bellaruth comment the moment I saw it on her site! Too many people have the wrong attitude about PTSD recovery. Thank you for posting this and helping spread the word about the right attitude -- so often it's how we approach recovery that makes all the difference!