The PTSD Breakthrough: The Revolutionary, Science-Based Compass RESET Program Hardcover – Sep 1 2010
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About the Author
Dr. Frank Lawlis is a renowned psychologist, researcher, and counselor with more than thirty-five years' experience, and is a fellow of the American Psychological Association. Dr. Lawlis is the cofounder of the Lawlis Peavey Psychoneuroplasticity (PNP) Center and is the chief content advisor for the Dr. Phil show and The Doctors.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
From Chapter One
What Is PTSD?
This is the story of post-traumatic stress disorder, also called PTSD. The typical term before PTSD was "shell shock," and it was only considered as a weakness in soldiers. PTSD was first considered a disorder when Vietnam War veterans returned with the symptoms listed below, which later became the basis for diagnosis.
The essential feature of PTSD is the development of characteristic symptoms in the senses of the individual following exposure to an extremely traumatic stressor. The stressor usually involves being a part of or witnessing an event of horrific magnitude. The traditional symptoms of PTSD include:
- Nightmares of past traumatic events
- Triggers of physical and psychological stresses
- Avoidance of any reminders of similar stimuli
- Isolation from others
- Emotional numbing
- Outbursts of anger or irrational rage
- Problems in concentration and focus
- Hypervigilance for triggers or paranoid thinking
From a rational point of view, all these symptoms seem simple and straightforward, but they are not. There are few treatments that actually show documented benefit in healing PTSD.
Medications for depression and anxiety are usually the frontline treatment. Group therapy has also been a mainline approach, especially with the integration of desensitization techniques. But nothing so far has produced a cure.
The PTSD Nightmare
There are a daunting number of veterans with PTSD in this nation, with more than eight hundred thousand diagnosed and countless others who have not sought help as thousands of soldiers continue to return home from war. These numbers will cause a seismic shift in our society by the sheer economic cost of care and loss of human capital. This is our national burden, and it's our responsibility to help these men and women. It's also our responsibility to help the families of these soldiers.
The children of veterans with the diagnosis of PTSD are much more likely to have problems in school and trouble with legal boundaries. The experience of having one of your parents become dysfunctional is troublesome enough for a child, but to be emotionally cut off from affection and guidance in understanding your own mixed-up feelings about the world has to be considered as some level of neglect. With spouses suffering from mental health problems, family structures are strained and collapsing at an epidemic rate. PTSD is not just a problem among our soldiers and their families. PTSD is considered an anxiety reaction to trauma of any kind. It can truly happen to anyone.
Luci was brutally raped when she was just fifteen and is still having debilitating nightmares almost every night at age twenty-five. In public, she finds herself hiding from people in closets or nooks, anywhere she can find to feel safe. She is an attractive woman, yet she purposefully dresses poorly to keep men from approaching her. She tries to gorge herself with fattening food to make herself even more unattractive. Therapy is frustrating because she wants to forget the traumatic event, but it seems like the goal of the available therapies is to force her to relive the rape over and over so that she can process her fears about it.
Bill, age fifty-five, was losing sleep because every time he would get comfortable, his doctor's face and voice would invade his consciousness. His mind would immediately go back to the moment he was told he had cancer. When he could finally get some sleep with the help of medication, he would dream of horrible deaths and the nightmares would wake him. He is now afraid of all medical consultations, even those that might help him. He has lost his strong faith in God, feeling betrayed and bitter about these events. He wants to know why this is happening to him. Sometimes, in a fit of anger, he throws things at his wife or lashes out at friends just because they are healthy and happy. With the additional stress caused by PTSD, his immune system is being compromised, which will likely increase his cancer's growth.
Do these people sound like someone you know? Perhaps it is you, your spouse, or a friend. There is a one out of ten chance that you or someone you know will develop PTSD during your lifetime. It's twice as likely if you experience a significant trauma and three to four times as likely if you are involved in some kind of disaster.
It has been shown that the citizens of New York City had a 12.6 percent rate of PTSD due to their close association with the terrorist attack of 9/11. If they were directly involved at any level, the rate shot up to 38 percent. High rates of PTSD are found in professionals who deal with shock, such as trauma counselors, police, firemen, and case workers. And one of the largest populations of people with PTSD is, of course, our soldiers.
The saddest story of all is that, until now, there have been no significant medical approaches to the resolution of PTSD since the diagnosis came into use more than forty years ago. There simply have been no answers. And time is running out. On average, there are three deaths by suicide each day from veterans alone. More than one thousand attempt to end their lives every month. Although the armed forces count approximately five thousand casualties in recent wars, if you include these suicides and suicide attempts, the number would be closer to seventy thousand.
The two most common treatment approaches for PTSD, medicine and psychotherapy, are not working. Zoloft and Paxil are the only two medications that have been approved by the FDA for treatment of PTSD. But many believe they are contributing to the problem rather than helping it. The labels of these medications warn of a significant risk of suicide. Should we then be surprised that two out of every five veterans who commit suicide were taking these medications? The bottom line: Medication is not the answer.
The other option offered as a solution is psychotherapy. But like Luci, many people with PTSD are not ready to explore painful times again. They are already isolating themselves from their community, friends, and loved ones, so the last thing they want to do is sit in a closed-in office with a stranger for long periods of time. And as strange as it might sound, PTSD isn't cured by exploring feelings or even experiencing reminders of the horrible events that were undergone. These tactics are contraindicated in professional psychotherapy because they require the person to relive the painful event in his or her mind without proper preparation or the skill sets to manage the stress that follows. In spite of the research and poor outcomes, old practices are hard to change. This approach is not helpful, at least in the beginning, which is where we are right now.
So what is the solution to helping those with PTSD?
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My biggest complaint about this book is how Lawlis does not interject with any sources or use names of case studies or even state any data. How does he back-up his methods? By merely stating that it "has been proven by science". Okay then... Quite bluntly, if someone who is a doctor is not able to provide source material and statistical information in his text at all I have extreme suspicions about his reasons for writing the book and his experience on the subject. (There is a resource section in the back of the book, but, again, there's no mention of these resources or data in the text itself.)
My second complaint is that this book does not read at all as if it were written to treat PTSD. The biggest points he makes is that someone who suffers from PTSD needs plenty of sleep, fresh air, and a healthy, vitamin-enriched diet. A wee bit obvious, don't you think? The introductory chapters are nothing more than overly informed methods of treating anxiety, nightmares, and stress. As I neared the end of his description of numerous vitamins and dietary supplements, I seriously considered giving up on this book (something I never do) but persisted on hoping for a dramatic upswing in regards to his supposed "revolutionary, science-based approach to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder recovery".
I can't say I was disappointed by the continuation of his constant "proven by science" remarks or lack of description when he uses a mindfulness-based stress reduction technique (using a specific type of sound frequency and rhythm over headphones... also known as biofeedback) on a traumatized soldier... After which he never explains what happened in that little story beyond whipping out the headphones and giving them to the soldier. For example, where he learned the technique or even what it's called or how professionals generally use it on patient, these things are never mentioned. To be quite blunt once again, this is a serious oversight in a book about treating PTSD... To bring up a treatment method and not explain anything about it, is extremely unprofessional. Thankfully, the book was just about finished at this point so I didn't have to suffer through his "revolution" for too long.
Furthermore, something that irritates me about Lawlis and his colleague, Dr. Phil is that they both claim to be experts in various fields that have little to nothing in common with each other. At the beginning of most chapters, Lawlis starts out with explaining how he's working in a new field in a new location. I don't believe that anyone, especially a psychologist, should publish a book, let alone go on national television, when they cannot decide what their focus is on. To write a book or have a television show, you are saying to your audience that you are an expert, that you know what you're talking about.
On Lawlis' website, in his biography, it says that he earned his Ph.D in psychology with an emphasis in medical psychology and rehabilitation. He's working on a project regarding alcohol and drug dependency treatment and has worked with patients who have chronic and acute pain, cancer and psychosomatic problems. His list of achievements continue on but none of them have to do with experience treating trauma aside from his recent work on a project entitled "<u>Camp Better America</u> as an adviser and instructor", which works with soldiers and their families on how to reintroduce those coming back from war to society.
I'm not saying he's not distinguished in the field, however, I am saying that he doesn't know enough about trauma or PTSD to write a book about treating it. Trauma, if you've ever experienced it or spent numerous hours talking to victims of trauma or sufferers of PTSD is a nightmare and a tragedy. It's horror. Lawlis mentions in this book that he's angry about the obstacles soldiers returning from war have to face when they come home, where they feel like strangers amidst their family and tortured in their own bodies, but the methods he mentions barely even scratch the surface of how a psychologist would treat someone in that position, let alone victims of rape, molestation, physical torture and abuse, mental abuse, early attachment disruption, natural disasters, grief, etcetera.
Honestly, I found this book to be insulting to those who have been traumatized and live with PTSD. Healing from trauma is not an easy task. It's not as simple as sleeping properly, exercising, and eating healthily and for a psychologist to think that it's that simple is a travesty. This book is embarrassing to those brave, strong psychologists who take on trauma victims and PTSD sufferers as clients and spend months to years earning their trust, helping heal them of their symptoms and teaching them methods of dealing with life on an hourly and daily basis.
If you're looking for a well-written, informed and organized book on methods of treating trauma and PTSD, I highly recommend <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Trauma-Treatment-Handbook-Protocols-Professional/dp/0393706184/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1298336326&sr=8-1">The Trauma Treatment Handbook: Protocols Across the Spectrum</a> by Robin Shapiro. It's an excellent overview and written in such a way that's easy enough for anyone to understand.
Forget about medications and psychotherapy, says the author. These are "old practices." He, of course, has the NEW answers, and what are they? First, we need to cleanse the toxins from the brain (sound just like a Sunday morning infomercial?) and get rid of the "parasites" in your intestines. Next is "positive thinking," "power breathing," "exposure to blue light," and "chewing gum." Herbs and vitamins--he lists them all, from ginseng to Rhodiola ("a Siberian herb that soldiers have used for stamina").
Not enough? Oh, Dr. Lawlis has a machine, too. It's his "Bioacoustical Utilization Device," which he claims shuts down frequencies that your brain has been using "inappropriately" and resets them to a "lower one." If that don't work, put on your 'jammies and hop into his hyperbaric chamber for some sleep, during which your immune system will stimulate internal healing.
Feel better? As a PTSD sufferer, it alarms me to see this kind of information disseminated to others who need help. "Pop medicine," of course, is a big seller--it has kept Dr. Phil and Dr. Lawlis in business. I pray that those of you who also fight this disorder seek competent medical advice, medications as needed (there are many, now, and new improved ones coming out every day) and good therapy to help you through the tough times.
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