On a mission to relax: study brings alternative techniques to Soldiers
Sgt. Robert Larson,
24th Press Camp Headquarters:
In a Harvard University study at Fort Bliss, the Benson Henry Institutes and the Samueli Institute bring more than 30 years of clinical research in relaxation response techniques to Soldiers who are suffering from stress-related issues.
The training will start with medical providers here learning the new techniques from the researchers. Some of the techniques include traditional meditation, deep breathing exercises and cognitive response skills.
Aggie Casey, director of the wellness program at Benson Henry, said teaching these techniques can do a lot to reduce stress-related symptoms as well as treat other chronic health issues.
“Stress is inevitable, but there are a lot of tools that we can learn to handle that stress,” said Casey.
The initial study will look at a group of post-deployment Soldiers who are dealing with a variety of issues, including insomnia, hyper vigilance and post-traumatic stress disorder. They will be put through a six-week version of the Benson Henry program.
Only active-duty Soldiers will be used in the initial study. Casey said that after the study concludes, the results could be used to develop programs for family members. This would give them the tools to help themselves and their Soldier.
Each Soldier will be interviewed and an individual approach will be mapped out for them. If a Soldier finds relaxation in activities such as running, going to the firing range or traditional meditation, then their program will be designed to take that into account.
Local providers were introduced to some of the techniques over the course of several days, and encouraged to take the training home and practice on themselves what they would eventually use with the study participants.
Col. Richard P. Petri, chief of the Interdisciplinary Pain Management Center at Fort Bliss, is excited about this new research initiative. He said he views it as an alternative treatment for combat stress and post-traumatic stress disorder in active-duty military personnel.
“Stress can be a positive motivator, but when it becomes overloaded, that’s when there are problems,” Petri said. “We want to empower our Soldiers for a better life.”
Casey said the goal is to get this training down to the lowest level. Once the providers here are trained, they can then train the Soldiers, and then the Soldiers can take it back to their units and train other Soldiers.
According to Mona Bingham, a researcher with the Samueli Institute, these techniques could even be taught to servicemembers entering military service, giving them tools to use before they deploy or see combat.
“After two decades of war, we have a lot of Soldiers who have symptoms without any actual diagnosis of PTSD,” said Bingham. “We hope that this study and these tools are things that Soldiers can use.”
Roxana Delgado, a senior research associate for Samueli, summed up the thoughts of all those involved in the study.
“We are trying to bring in training that the Soldiers can use anywhere, at any time, without the need of a counselor,” said Delgado.
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