Can writing exercises for veterans help cure PTSD?
Published: March 16, 2012
WASHINGTON — Veterans Affairs researchers are testing whether some simple writing exercises could help returning combat troops better deal with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other war wounds.
Expressive writing therapy — having patients jot down their memories and emotions to work through the trauma — has received extensive testing in the civilian world. But Nina Sayer, associate director for the VA’s Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research, said this project is the first clinical study looking at how the therapy could benefit veterans.
Started last summer, the project has already collected writing samples and charted the progress of more than 800 veterans. Sayer said officials hope to complete the project by the end of this year, but need to recruit about 400 more veterans to participate.
Veterans’ writing sessions are handled online, and last only about 15 minutes for less than a week. But Sayer said even that brief expressive exercise has the potential to pay dividends for struggling troops.
It could benefit the VA, too. The control group is asked to write non-emotional but experience-based critiques of the department’s systems. From a research standpoint, Sayer said, it’ll give her staff a baseline from which to evaluate the expressive writing results. From a practical standpoint, it will give VA officials some frank analysis of where their programs are falling short.
Those interested in taking part in the study can contact the research group at 1-877-762-3999 or online at https://www.visn23.va.gov/apps/Military2Civilian.
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