Iraq war veteran is studying the paths, barriers to PTSD treatment

Jeremy Honsowetz


By WYATT STAYNER | The Columbian, Vancouver, Wash. | Published: November 16, 2018


VANCOUVER, Wash. (Tribune News Service) — For Jeremy Honsowetz, this work is personal.

Honsowetz, a Battle Ground High School graduate and licensed mental health counselor in Vancouver, is conducting a study on post-traumatic stress disorder, and how veterans seek treatment for it. The research is part of his doctorate studies for Capella University in the online school’s advanced studies of human development program. The study isn’t focused on the trauma veterans have experienced, but rather their path to treatment and if they’ve experienced any barriers to treatment.

The 44-year-old is living with PTSD himself. After enlisting in the U.S. Army at age 30, Honsowetz served two tours in Iraq before returning to civilian life in 2009. He went into the Army Reserves for a short period and began working for Columbia River Mental Health Services in 2011, before opening his private practice in July.

“My experiences have led me to focus in on this type of study versus focusing in on something else,” Honsowetz said. “I am excited to learn from it and see what comes from it. Until I do the interviews and look at the interviews, analyze the data and see what themes might be there, I don’t know what it’s going to uncover.”

Honsowetz is seeking about 15 volunteers for the confidential study and already has a few. He screens people before they can join the study and then will conduct an interview with each participant to gather data. Participants must be a veteran of the Iraq or Afghanistan wars.

Honsowetz mainly did convoy security in Iraq and said that sitting in Portland traffic can make him anxious. He is also easily startled by his fianc?e if she walks around a corner talking loudly at him, and has experienced unpleasant dreams and nightmares, he said.

Lightning and thunder made him jumpy when he returned home from service, he said. He had to remind himself: “I’m not out in Iraq with bombs going off,” Honsowetz recalled.

His path to treatment started when he noticed he was drinking too much alcohol. Honsowetz sought outpatient treatment from the Veterans Affairs campus in Vancouver for his alcohol use, and discovered the root of his problem was actually PTSD.

“I’m a counselor, but it took someone else telling me, ‘You got PTSD.’ I was like, ‘Oh, that makes sense,’ ” Honsowetz said. “I think that’s another barrier to veterans getting treatment is that sometimes they cope in their own ways, and it’s not always healthy or adaptive like drinking or other substances, which was the case for me.”

Honsowetz recognizes that veterans may go years after leaving the military before seeking treatment. He said he’s interested in discovering what may make people seek treatment sooner and what may delay them in getting treatment. Honsowetz realizes that associating treatment with weakness can hold some people back, but said he also believes there might be other blind spots that cause those delays.

Honsowetz said he’s not trying to steer the study somewhere. He has a list of general questions he’ll ask each volunteer, and the interviews should last about 30 minutes to an hour.

“I’m not trying to lead anybody into what I might think, because I have no idea for certain,” he said. “I hope, in some way, it can help the bigger picture of what might help or get in the way of veterans seeking treatment.”

Since getting help for his PTSD, Honsowetz said he’s doing much better in dealing with it. He now has thinking and breathing exercises he can use if he starts to feel anxious, and he’s undergone group therapy that’s shown him he’s not alone.

“It started kind of a community that I could be a part of,” Honsowetz said. “They’re veterans who had a similar experience — different but similar. I was able to learn more about PTSD. I was able to learn more about how I cope with it.”

To participate in Honsowetz’s study, contact him at jhonsowetz99@yahoo.com.

©2018 The Columbian (Vancouver, Wash.)
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