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Learning Center Experience
By Dr. Alyssa
Gilston, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences instructor, Kaplan University
participated in training on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One of the
major factors that jumped out at me from the beginning was that unlike so many
other clinical disorders, PTSD has a known etiology, meaning that we know where
and how it likely developed. Regardless of which orientation we follow, as
clinicians we spend a great deal of time creating case conceptualizations to
gain a better understanding of our client and develop the most effective
treatment plan. The onset of PTSD is linked to a traumatic event, whether it is
an accident, some type of abuse, a natural disaster, or, for so many of our
service men and women who served on active duty, as a result of combat.
Something traumatic has had a huge influence on the client’s life in a very
dramatic and negative fashion. We know that the occurrence of traumatic events
is common in our world—even the observance of some of the most recent events,
like the bombing at the Boston marathon, could evoke a traumatic reaction in
people. It made me wonder if knowing how the disorder developed in the first
place increases our ability to treat and assist the individual with PTSD.
When we are
working with a client with PTSD, we need to be cognizant of many factors.
First, we of course need to have an awareness of the event that occurred that
caused the PTSD. The person can re-experience the traumatic event in so many
ways, including nightmares or flashbacks, or through association with people,
places, sights, and even certain smells. By keeping this in our conscious
thought process, we can most certainly gain a better understanding of our
client and help him or her to deal with the stressful physiological and
emotional reactions. Without understanding a particular stimuli that a client
is attempting to avoid, we could easily incorrectly diagnose our client, and in
turn, create an ineffective treatment plan.
We also need
to remember that if a client has PTSD, it is very likely that he or she will
have other disorders as well, including substance disorders, mood disorders,
and other anxiety disorders. Assessing for any type of comorbidity is
essential. There are often deficits in functioning in a variety of areas such
as in academic, occupational, marital, and social functioning. Understanding
that PTSD does have an impact on all of these areas and providing the client
with psychoeducation about this relationship can also be quite effective.
On a personal note, I have been working as a
mentor with our returning female veterans. Almost all of them carry a diagnosis
of PTSD and are involved in cognitive behavioral therapy along with psychopharmacological
treatments to address their symptoms. Support is so incredibly important and by
empathizing and offering my assistance, I am able to assist these women with
creating goals beyond treatment. I encourage them to create SMART goals—goals
that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic/Relevant, and Timely. I
find my clients to be incredibly brave, strong, and resilient, and they seem to
have great peace in knowing that I have an understanding of where their
reactions and symptoms originated. A major advantage to the clinician is that
we have an understanding about how PTSD developed so we have some extra tools
in our clinician’s toolbox to assist us with treating and working with our clients.
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