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The Veterans Stress Project, by Tom Porpiglia

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MHCGR Blog Special Edition

The Veterans Stress Project

Tom Porpiglia, LMHC, D.CEP, EFT-ADV, EAS-C, VV

The Veterans Stress Project (VSP), a 501c3, was organized in 2008 with the intention to provide veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder a unique technique to heal while documenting the outcomes as formal research. Emotional Freedom Technique, aka EFT or tapping, had dozens of anecdotal reports of people using it to heal symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety, fears, phobias and more. A profound personal experience with EFT in early 1998 convinced me of its healing potential even though I knew very little about it.

EFT is an acupuncture-based technique that combines exposure therapy, cognitive therapy, and somatic therapy into one process. EFT involves bringing the painful memory to mind (exposure), creating a phrase that describes the memory (cognitive) and tapping on acupuncture meridian (pathways) end points while repeating the phrase about the memory. This process is repeated until the intensity gets as close to zero as possible. This process produces rapid results in most cases.

Gary Craig, developer of EFT, videoed his success with Vietnam Veterans he worked with at a VA facility in or around 1994. That facility expressed no interest in the outcomes. Gary later organized a weeklong event with several veterans from Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, bringing in seasoned EFT practitioners and a professional filmmaker to create a documentary Operation Emotional Freedom-The Answer. One can assess the video free of charge here. I will warn you in advance that it can be very intense and emotional at times. None-the-less, without formal research the VA would not even consider the technique. This is an interesting for a number of reasons: 1) a VISN (Veterans Integrated Service Network) in the New England area started using EFT WITHOUT research in 2005, 2) a recent article indicate that the VA has NO idea of how effective their treatment methods are. Other data I have found indicates that traditional methods fail 60% of the veterans and half of them do not experience any relief at all.

This filming endeavor gave birth to the VSP, of which I am a founding member. Qualified EFT practitioners, who volunteered their services, were recruited all over the US. One of the requirements to qualify as a coach was to take an ethics course about human research. Veterans with PTSD were recruited by various methods and we offered 6 free, one-hour sessions in exchange for gathering of data. We used standardized measures and protocols to assess PTSD, Insomnia, psychological symptoms, and physical symptoms including Traumatic Brain Injury symptoms. We offered services in person, via telephone, or Skype. We randomly placed some veterans on a 30-day wait list, after initial evaluation, to provide a control group. These veterans were re-evaluated before we started treatment. We also evaluated all veterans after three sessions and at the end of six sessions treatment was terminated. We followed up with them after three months and six months. All collected data was forwarded to our research center, the National Institute for Alternative Healthcare, for analysis. Our lead research person and his associates put the data into formal research documents for peer review and publication in research journals.

I personally worked with 32 veterans. 13 actually completed treatment. One of the vets I worked with consented to an interview on WROC-TV 8 with Kevin Doran. You can view the videos here. 59 veterans completed the initial study. We conducted a replication study and I am uncertain how many veterans participated in the replication study. The outcomes of both studies demonstrated that EFT quickly and easily reduced PTSD symptoms in 85% of the veterans by an average of 63%! This means that they went from clinically positive for PTSD (PCL-M score greater than 50) to sub-clinical levels. The other 15% also experienced relief, just not as significant as the others. This simply means that the veteran needed to work on other unrelated traumas.

The research has officially ended; however, I continue to offer the 6 free sessions. Additionally, research on EFT and its effectivity on a wide variety of psychological, physical, and medical conditions continue. One can find a partial list of research here at the end of the article identifying 36 of over 60 published research studies. Other research has indicated that EFT is equally as effective as EMDR. The major difference is that EFT can be self-applied.

Recently, Somatic Psychotherapy Today published a case study article written by myself: Using Emotional Freedom Technique to Treat Veterans and PTSD. You can read the article here by going to page 42. You can also read an article by other colleagues of mine on page 38: Echoes in Bosnia and Beyond.

Tom is a Vietnam Veteran and LMHC in private practice in Webster, NY. He is a member of NYMHCA, the Veterans Business Council, The Irondequoit Chamber of Commerce, and The Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology. His website is www.lifescriptcounseling.com and may be contacted at 585-704-0376 or info@lifescriptcounseling.com.

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