Site Information

Blog

Guided Imagery To Relieve Combat PTSD

Posted by Ellen Simon on

(By Julie Erickson, NAMI Education Program Coordinator)

According to a recent study, the alternative medical techniques of healing touch and guided imagery can be effective in relieving symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in returning active duty military personnel, when combined with regular PTSD treatment. Healing touch therapy employs gentle touch to restore the body’s energy balance and is meant to promote healing, relieve pain and reduce anxiety. Guided imagery uses visualization by the patient in an effort to send a message to the emotional control center of the brain, which then affects the endocrine, immune and autonomic nervous systems. These systems influence vital bodily functions, such as heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure.

The study included 123 marines, 55 of whom received regular treatment and 68 whose treatment plan also included healing touch and guided imagery. All participants in this study had been experiencing at least one symptom of PTSD before the trial began. By the third week and the completion of six healing touch and guided imagery sessions, the group whose treatment included these complementary medical techniques showed significantly greater improvement from their PTSD symptoms, when compared to the group who only received regular treatment during that same period.

“Scores for PTSD symptoms decreased substantially, about 14 points and below the clinical cutoffs for PTSD,” said principal investigator Dr. Mimi Guarneri in a news release. “This indicates that the intervention was not just statistically significant, but actually decreased symptoms below the threshold for PTSD diagnosis. It made a larger difference in reducing PTSD symptoms.” Although the research on healing touch has been minimal up until now, the few studies that have been conducted on this technique show it to be effective in post-surgery recovery, anxiety reduction during radiation treatments and pain management for migraines. Guided imagery has been shown in studies to reduce side effects from cancer treatments, pre-surgery anxiety, frequency of migraines and general stress.

Wayne B. Jonas, M.D., president and chief executive officer of Samueli Institutes, explains that “Service members are seeking out non-drug complementary and integrative medicine as part of their overall care and approach to wellness.” Healing touch and guided imagery techniques offer patients an opportunity to include alternative medicine as part of their overall treatment plan, without the added risk and side effects that can come along with many modern medicines. A recent survey of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) specialized posttraumatic stress disorder treatment programs found that 96 percent of programs reported use of at least one form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Guided imagery, along with mindfulness, stress management-relaxation therapy and progressive muscle relaxation techniques were the most popular. For more information on healing touch and guided imagery techniques, check out the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Finding From Returning Home From Iraq and Afghanistan

Findings from Returning Home from Iraq and Afghanistan and Preventing Psychological Disorders in Service Members and Their Families More than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan has placed extraordinary demands on service members and their families, and many veterans have returned from the field with significant psychological impairments. Between 2000 and 2011, almost 1 [...]

Read More »


Expanding Care For Veterans Act: ​Brownley Veterans' Bill Gets House Hearing

(Originally released on November 19, 2014. Washington, DC.)Today, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-Westlake Village), Ranking Member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health, presided over a hearing that considered seven bills, including Brownley’s bill, the Expanding Care for Veterans Act (H.R. 4887). Brownley’s bill would expand complementary and alternative medicine and mental health care options [...]

Read More »


NAMI Depression & Veterans Fact Sheet

Depression is one of the most common and expensive mental disorders costing the US an est $66B/year.Veterans diagnosed with depression account for more than 14% of the total. From 2000- 2007 medical records of more than 206,000 veteran entering the VA health care system were assessed. Findings revealed that 1 in 3 patients was diagnosed [...]

Read More »


Sleep Is Critical To PTSD Treatment

New Research Shows Sleep Critical to Effective PTSD Treatment(By Janice Wood. Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D)Sleep quality is critical to the effectiveness of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment, according to a new study.“I think these findings help us understand why sleep disturbances and nightmares are such important symptoms in PTSD,” said Sean P.A. Drummond, Ph.D., [...]

Read More »


New NIH Initiative To Study The Effectivness Of Alternative Treatments

(Originally published in The Washington Post - October 15, 2014. Written by Emily Wax-Thibodeaux.)The acupuncturist in his glow-in-the-dark yellow Crocs gently leaned over the burly and bearded Army Special Operations officer, who was stretched across a bed in the “zen den” of the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center.The air was sweet with eucalyptus and peppermint [...]

Read More »


Sleep Disorders Plague Vets With Head Trauma or PTSD

New research shows high rates of sleep disorders among veterans of America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or head injuries. The study conducted at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, found that among some 300 soldiers with PTSD, head injuries or both, more than half had sleep [...]

Read More »


New Bill Would Change Nature Of PTSD Claims & Workers Comp Benefits

(Originally published in the Jamestown Sun - September 9, 2014. Written by Mike Nowatzki.)Police, firefighters and other first responders diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after experiencing an “extraordinary and unusual” event on the job would be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, but victims of violent crimes at work wouldn’t have the same option under a [...]

Read More »


Expanding Care For Veterans Act

On June 18, 2014 Representative Julia Brownley introduced H.R. 4887, “The Expanding Care forVeterans Act,” which would provide for research, education and the delivery of CAM for our nation’s veterans. HR 4887 would mandate that theVeterans Administration (VA) conduct re- search while developing a plan that includes CAM over a threeyear period, thereby providing time [...]

Read More »


Combat Trauma Is Nothing Like In Classical Antiquity – So Why Are We Still Treating It As Such?

(Posted by Jason Crowley, Lecturer in Ancient History, at Manchester Metropolitan University - October 08, 2014.)We need to examine how we treat our modern day soldiers and consider how combat affects the soul of the person.The 20th-century American soldier, then, faced a near perfect storm of psychological adversity. By contrast, the situation faced by the [...]

Read More »