Counseling Student Presents on PTSD at Graduate Scholars Forum

Posted on 4/12/2018 11:06:11 AM

Joshua HayesA lot of people have differing opinions as to how to best treat military veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but they all agree on one thing: something needs to be done to help.

That was the point of Joshua Hayes’ presentation on April 4 at the 13th annual IUP Graduate Scholars Forum at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex.

“Every day, an average of 20 veterans commit suicide,” Hayes said. “This bothers me because they risk their lives to protect us. So, it’s necessary to find … therapy to help them.”

Hayes, a student in the Counseling program, titled his project “Group Therapy for Veterans with PTSD.” It was part of the annual forum that gives graduate students the opportunity to put their research work on display for the IUP community to learn from.

Hayes’ work focused on creating a four-step process to help soldiers who are struggling with the many symptoms of PTSD, which include emotional distress, night terrors, and insomnia.

The first step is group therapy, which will be built by using breakout sessions where veterans could speak one-on-one with each other to share their experiences and concerns. Those smaller sessions would make group therapy more comfortable for the veterans, Hayes’ work shows.

“But that can be hard because veterans are trained to contain their emotions,” Hayes said.

The second step would be to use humor to help ease the suffering. This includes using props to tell stories or to share photos that bring about humorous memories.

“PTSD literally eliminates someone’s sense of humor,” Hayes said.

The third step would be socialization, where the veterans would get to know each other’s stories and see how much their lives since combat have been similar.

“It’s based off existential therapy,” Hayes said. “You can use your own suffering to help others. By doing that, you find a better sense of meaning.”

The final step is to do a group activity that would help the veterans relive events without reliving the trauma. One such activity could be shooting targets at a range because it would allow the veterans to handle weapons in a way that didn’t include combat.

One suggestion Hayes offered was to have the veterans make a statement after each shot. If they hit a red marker on the target, they offer an “I should” statement; a yellow marker means an “I can’t” statement and; a white marker translates to an “I can” statement.

“The goal is to replace irrational thoughts with rational thoughts,” Hayes said.

Then at the end of each session, the veterans would have a form to document their thoughts and emotions, much like a journal. It would be used to track progress from start to finish.

“You have to bring awareness to your thoughts,” Hayes said. “You can’t change your thought process without becoming aware.”