The Veteran's Administration is scrambling to understand Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. By the end of 2014 a million US troops will come home from Afghanistan and Iraq. It's estimated 20 percent have PTSD. Many others will never be diagnosed.
We've been telling you about local veteran Dan Hoaglin and his struggle with PTSD. He turned to a strange looking alternative therapy. And after years of searching for a solution- it works!
Retired Army Staff Sergeant Dan Hoaglin. Six tours through Kosovo, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. Nine treatments through the Veterans Administration for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Nothing has stopped the suicidal thoughts and nightmares or flashbacks that instantly return to Dan to the life and death situations he faced serving our country for more than 11 years. "I've spent time in jail because of not being able to understand when a cop puts his hand on a gun it's not a threat."
That happened on Dan's farm outside Prattsburgh on the tenth anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks. He had a flashback and was arrested when he got defensive with cops called to help him. "I'm desperately looking for something that gives me that added, that added little stretch. So that I'm able to say quicker, I'm here, it's all right, I'm gonna be ok."
We were there six weeks ago when Dan and his wife Angie met Licensed Mental Health Counselor Tom Porpiglia for the first time in Rochester. Tom is a Vietnam Veteran who has also struggled with PTSD. "And that led me on a quest because I knew there had to be something better."
Tom says Dan is an extreme case of PTSD. And after trying everything else, he agreed to be part of a study called the Veterans Stress Project to see if a strange looking therapy is a solution for PTSD. It's called Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT. Some call it the Tapping Solution.
"It's based in acupuncture" says Tom. "We're tapping on energy meridians and energy meridian points."
Porpiglia and other counselors believe PTSD is a normal reaction to an extremely abnormal events like combat. "It's the body stuck in fight, flight, freeze mode. You're always on aware, you're always looking around. what's happening? Who's happening, you know."
He says the tapping restores normal energy flow in the body which brings Dan back to reality faster. The talking helps him focus. Six sessions and six weeks later has it worked? "I'm pleasantly surprised with the treatment" says Dan. "My symptomology went down."
Dan was at the top off the scale used to evaluate PTSD. After EFT his symptoms have dropped by 66 percent.
What kind of changes has his wife Angie seen? "It seems to be the bigger issues have gotten smaller, especially when we're faced with stressful situations."
Dan uses E-F-T everywhere. "And I use it as a tool to deal with things as they pop up. The nightmares kind of quelled. The flashbacks quelled. The anger has quelled a lot."
Porpiglia's not surprised. "86 percent of the veterans that come through the research have had significant results and have averaged a 63 percent drop in symptoms."
But here's the kicker: The VA doesn't widely accept EFT as a tool to treat PTSD. That upsets Angie. "He's been going to the VA a long time now without that kind of significant drop in any other treatment. It's kind of ridiculous if they didn't consider it."
Porpiglia says the VA needs to change. "Their mentality, their outlook, their resistance to being open to new technologies and possibilities that could greatly enhance their services."
EFT hasn't cured Sergeant Hoaglin of his PTSD. It is a tool he can use to control it. "It may not work for all vets, it may not work for all situations. But if one Vet gets better that's one more that isn't sitting on the street wondering what he's gonna do. Or thinking about not doing anything at all."
EFT is not an approved therapy by the Veterans Administration. However, veterans groups and counselors say it is unofficially used in many VA centers and military bases. The Walter Reed Medical Center is in year two of a five year study on using Emotional Freedom Technique for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Counselors believe after that, the VA will officially approve its use. But that is years away and thousands of returning troops and veterans could suffer in the mean time.
We have many resources for Veterans with PTSD.
The toll free number to the VA's Veteran's Crisis Line is 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1.
To talk with Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Tom Porpiglia at Life Script Counseling Services in Rochester call 585-704-0376.
Read about the Veterans Stress Project and EFT here.
The Veteran's Outreach Center has many free resources for veterans in the Rochester Region.
Warrior Salute is a service of CDS Monarch that helps Veterans from all over the country with PTSD.