Institute of Medicine Report on PTSD: Where Are Human Relationships?

The Institute of Medicine released an important report on the progress of the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs in treating service members and veterans with PTSD. The IOM report stresses the importance of providing treatment with robust evidence supporting it to individuals suffering from PTSD:

"To treat PTSD, the committee recommends the use of treatments and therapies supported by robust evidence, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. However, the committee’s analysis of innovative treatments—including yoga, acupuncture, and animal-assisted therapy—was hampered by a lack of empirical evidence on their effectiveness."

Committee members seem to be interested in alternative therapies and urge the clinical sites to assess effectiveness of treatment such as yoga before during and after it is provided so as to obtain empirical evidence to support it.

The report brief does not mention human relationships as a curative factor in PTSD.  We analysts have more work to do to explain to the public why we know that healing takes place in the context of a human relationship, not one "provider" delivering a unit of treatment to a "recipient".  The idea that a person recovers from trauma by working through the story of before, during and after in the presence of another human being, who is trying to understand and daring to witness the painful experiences, just doesn't show up in current discourse.  

The Soldier's Project, a pro bono program that provides long term therapy to service members veterans and their families, has treated 1100 service members, veterans and their loved ones since its founding 7 years ago, and has had NO suicides.  The treatment provided is based on the principles that people help people, and that civilians need to accept responsibility for the wars fought on our behalf. 

Prudy Gourguechon, M.D.