Alternative PTSD Therapy

Mindfulness based stress reduction therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Popular pastimes yoga, pilates, and meditation take place at our parks, beaches, gyms, and on our TVs. But how many knew their effects to be healing? Recent studies prove the effectiveness of mindfulness-based techniques for improving anxiety symptoms in PTSD patients like our nation's defenders.

The Journal of Clinical Psychology posted a study online yesterday about the experience of veterans participating in a meditation-style program to reduce stress. The Buddhism-based program inspired positive feedback from soldiers experiencing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"As a health practitioner about mindfulness-based stress reduction."

Veterans participated in a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) therapy and were assessed at multiple points. MBSR consists of eight-weekly sessions around two to three hours and can include meditation, stretching, yoga, tailored instruction, group dialogue, and a plethora of other activities tailored to the needs of each practitioner.

The study assessed several factors at a baseline, two-month, and six-month increments including PTSD symptoms, depression, function, behavior, acceptance, and mindfulness. Improvements were across the board, with symptom decreases in PTSD and depression and increases in acceptance and understanding as well as behavioral advances.

The University of Massachusetts Medical School uses MBSR to decrease physical and psychological symptoms, increase relaxation, and provide energy and enthusiasm for life. The program began in 1979, and teaches practitioners to increase self-awareness and begin a conscious program to relieve stress, pain, and illness in order to meet the challenges of daily life.

Studies on MBSR have grown popular in the past few years, as a recent study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice suggests the use of mindfulness-based techniques for bipolar disorder patients. Dr. Peter Strong, founder of The Boulder Center for Mindfulness Therapy, practices MBSR on a variety of patients online.

Dr. Strong explains to dailyRx, "mindfulness is a fascinating awareness skill that is revolutionizing the way we work with stress and anxiety disorders. We do not yet have a complete understanding of exactly what mindfulness is and how it differs from ordinary attention-awareness, and perhaps this is a good thing because the power of mindfulness lies in what it points to."  From here the doctor explains mindfulness as an "engaged presence" in which one experiences the world as an active particpant instead of becoming lost in thoughts and memories.  

"Through training, we can cultivate a non-reactive mindfulness-based relationship with the contents of our mind, including painful and traumatic memories. We can learn to 'sit' with our inner pain without becoming lost in reactive thinking and the suffering that accompanies reactive thinking. This is what is meant by 'engaged presence," Strong details.  

In the case of PTSD patients, Dr. Strong states, "their greatest problem is not in the traumatic memory itself but in their continued habitual reactivity to that unresolved emotional pain. This reactivity prevents healing and resolution by inhibiting the formation of the mindfulness-based inner therapeutic space. Without that inner space the emotion cannot change or heal.

"If we take the analogy of physical injury, sustained reactivity is like mindlessly continuing to walk on a broken ankle, when what we need to do is focus mindfully on the injury and then respond with that natural inner intelligence that tells us to rest and take our weight off our ankle. Then the ankle will heal. So it is with our emotions and trauma. When we can develop a mindful relationship with the emotion based on openness of mind and heart and the absence of reactivity then the emotion is able to heal."

Mindfulnes treatments currently help anxiety, depression, and stress sufferers alike.  Ask a health practitioner near you about MBSR and other mindfulness-based therapies.  

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 29, 2011
Last Updated:
November 29, 2011