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September/October 2015 Issue

Editor's Note: Body Healing Mind
By Marianne Mallon
Social Work Today
Vol. 15 No. 5 P. 4

Millions of veterans returning from wars for decades, most likely longer, have experienced PTSD. It is only fairly recently that our culture and our clinical community have acknowledged it as bona fide psychiatric condition and have begun to devise treatments for it. The gold standard treatments for PTSD have remained the same for some time and have included prolonged exposure in which a veteran is encouraged to talk repeatedly and in detail about the events of the trauma, and cognitive-behavioral therapy. The goal is to have veterans relive traumatic experiences in a secure and supportive environment. Though this approach has helped many vets, many others who engage in these treatments become frustrated and do not complete them.

In recent years, professionals have looked for new approaches that could enhance the effectiveness of current treatments. Practitioners treating vets with PTSD have been encouraged by treatments characterized as body-centered or somatic approaches and one of the most successful has been somatic experiencing, the topic of our cover story. Body-centered or somatic approaches share the assumption that trauma is an experience that affects and imprints the body and that it is essential to engage the body in the healing process. For somatic experiencing practitioners, trauma is a response to an event that disturbs the normal physiological processes of the nervous system, keeping it in a continual state of threat response. It is this ongoing physiological state that affects a vet's mind, emotions, relationships, and behavior.

Veterans have given the ultimate to their country—they have risked their lives and some have returned with their bodies and minds seriously damaged. We owe them the very best in treatment for all conditions and to include mental health, most specifically PTSD, as deserving all the attention and research into new approaches for treatment. Perhaps somatic experiencing will prove to be a breakthrough in using the body to heal the mind.

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Marianne Mallon