Treatment of PTSD
So, now that we have a model that gives you a basic understanding of PTSD, we finally get to the most important issue for people with PTSD: Where can I find some treatment that will finally make me better?
I would love to be able to give each and every one of you a simple answer that would cover your unique PTSD treatment needs. However, in reality, finding treatment for PTSD can be a “Good News, Bad News” scenario. The good news is that there are a number of different treatments that are all appropriate for different degrees of PTSD, and advances and improvements continue to be made in treating PTSD. The bad news is that it can often be difficult to access those treatments. Finding the right treatment for you depends on many different factors, including the severity and chronicity of your unique dissociative symptoms, but also on many other socioeconomic factors.
Before we discuss treatments for PTSD in detail, we need to make a distinction between learning how to manage your PTSD symptoms from day to day, versus longer-term treatment that will effectively reduce your dissociative symptoms, and gradually relieve the state of information overload that your brain has been experiencing with PTSD.
Because your mind is in a constant state of overload when you have PTSD, it is vital that you are constantly working to reduce the amount of stimulation and information coming into your brain. You can do this by having a mental health professional teach you some Stabilization Skills, including relaxation, meditation, mindfulness, or anchoring skills. Stabilization can also be aided with appropriate prescriptions from your doctor or psychiatrist, or with the help of companion pets.
WHERE CAN I GET TREATMENT?
I don’t want to be discouraging or negative at this point, but I do need to be realistic. Finding and accessing quality treatment for your PTSD could be difficult, and you may have to be both persistent and creative in finding adequate treatment for your unique situation. You must consider many things when looking for PTSD treatment, including the professional qualifications of the mental health therapist, their training, what caused your PTSD symptoms, the severity and chronicity of your symptoms, and whether you have access to various kinds of funding for your treatment.
WHO IS QUALIFIED TO TREAT PTSD?
There are many different types of mental health professionals who may be qualified and licensed to treat mental health disorders, including PTSD, in the country or city where you live. Psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, behavior therapists, and various types of psychotherapists may all theoretically have the necessary professional qualifications to treat PTSD. However, regardless of their degrees or professional qualifications, they all must have considerable extra training before they can provide you with adequate treatment for PTSD, especially if your dissociative symptoms are severe. Don’t get hung up on looking for somebody with the highest degree or the most diplomas. I know plenty of well-trained social workers who have far more training and experience for treating PTSD than many psychologists or psychiatrists. So, when looking for PTSD treatment, make sure you ask therapists about how much extra training and experience they have in treating dissociation and severe cases of PTSD.
HOW WILL I PAY FOR TREATMENT?
The single biggest issue in finding PTSD treatment is funding. If your dissociative symptoms are extensive and your PTSD severe, your treatment is going to take much longer and is going to be more expensive. If you are fortunate and have a good income and good health benefits, it will make it much easier for you to access quality treatment for you PTSD symptoms. If you can’t afford to pay for the treatment on your own, you are going to have to find other ways to fund your treatment.
The kind of event that triggered your PTSD breakdown is an important issue in finding treatment. For example, if you were injured in the workplace, you may be eligible for having your treatment funded through the Worker’s Compensation program in the province or state where you live. If your PTSD was caused by a motor vehicle accident, you may be eligible for funding through your automobile insurance. In some provinces and states, if your trauma resulted from somebody committing a criminal act, you might be eligible to apply for funding through Criminal Compensation programs. You should check to see whether your state of province has such a program. If your PTSD was a result of events you experienced in the military or as a first-responder, you may also be eligible for treatment. Sadly, this has not always been the case. Governments are only beginning to acknowledge the terrible toll that PTSD takes on our military personnel and first responders. Don’t expect the system to automatically accept your PTSD diagnosis. Do expect that you may have to battle and persevere to have both your PTSD diagnosis and your right to treatment acknowledged.
Another source of funding for your PTSD treatment could be your private health insurance plan, especially if you live in the USA. Alternatively, if you live in a country which has universal health care, you may or may not be eligible for various levels of mental health treatment, depending on the country, state, or province where you live. The biggest problem with seeking treatment through insurance or government health plans is that they may have limits on either the number of treatment sessions or the amount of funding that is available for your treatment. Where treatment is available, you may have to settle for “cookie cutter” treatment programs that are designed to treat as many people as possible at one time, due to budget limitations within those programs. Also, many health insurance plans may only pay for treatment by psychologists or psychiatrists who are legally allowed to provide mental health diagnoses. This may limit your access to other therapists who are very experienced at treating dissociation and PTSD, but are not legally allowed to provide diagnoses.
A WORD ABOUT TREATMENT PROGRAMS
Quality, individualized treatment of your PTSD symptoms could be time-consuming and expensive, especially if your symptoms are severe and are longstanding. Government and institutional programs are often more interested in showing how many people they have treated, or how quickly they have been seen, as ways of demonstrating the effectiveness of their programs. They are interested in showing voters or shareholders that they are delivering services in the most cost effective manner. They are usually less interested in showing whether their treatment programs are actually making significant improvements in people’s mental health status. This reality could make it difficult for you to receive individualized treatment that is tailored to the severity of your dissociation and PTSD symptoms. However, even if government and institutional programs might not be able to adequately treat moderate to severe cases of dissociation and PTSD, almost all of them should be able to teach you valuable skills for keeping yourself stable and for managing your symptoms until you can find adequate treatment.
In summary, finding proper, effective treatment for your PTSD symptoms could be a long and frustrating ordeal. However, I urge you and your loved ones to be persistent and patient in your search to find the right therapist and treatment for you. There has been great improvement over the past twenty-five or thirty years in the therapies that are available for treating PTSD, especially with the development of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, and ongoing improvement in our understanding and treatment of dissociation. Thus, if you are suffering from PTSD, there is hope. And there is a very good chance that you can become symptom free if you remain patient, and if you manage to connect with a therapist who is properly trained and skilled at treating PTSD.
Part One - The Need for Education
Part Two - Your Brain Before PTSD
Part Three - Diagnosing PTSD
Part Four - What is Dissociation?