Today's military members and their families face an incredible amount of stress. Never before have there been so many PTSD diagnoses in such a small percentage of the population.
Studies estimate that 1 in every 5 military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has PTSD.
20 % of the soldiers who have been deployed in the past 6 years have PTSD. That’s over 300,000.
These figures do not include current or former service members who have never sought treatment or individuals who may have sought treatment through private therapists, counselors or doctors.
Massage therapy in conjunction with counseling and basic therapies can ease these symptoms, helping our troops and their families reintegrate and regain the lives they are missing.
By traveling to the home or space preferred by the military member (or their family), a basis of safety and trust is begun. Without this basis, the emotional walls will remain, leading to more episodes in the news of military members breaking under the stress and memories of what they have experienced while serving our country.
Expanding the care and treatment of PTSD military members to include the families (and therefore secondary sufferers of PTSD), I hope to reduce the episodes of domestic or external violence caused by sufferers who act out while trying to compensate for their pain.
The majority of studies of treatment-seeking veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or combat-related mental health issues report that at least 50 percent of those veterans commit wife-battering and family violence. Male veterans with PTSD are two to three times more likely than veterans without PTSD to engage in intimate partner violence, according to the VA, which also found that the majority of veterans with combat stress commit at least one act of spousal abuse in their first year post-deployment.
Sgt. Travis Runnels, Combat Veteran of the 1st Infantry Division, U.S. Army, (himself a sufferer of PTSD) said, “Team strength is emphasized within the units and nobody wants to feel like the loose link. Sometimes a cry for help is confused with being weak, instead of taken for the serious disorder it is. Understand that PTSD needs proper medical treatment and sometimes intervention.” Runnels found that when he started utilizing massage therapy as a compliment to his conventional therapies, he learned to relax, let his guard down and begin to feel comfortable within his own body and mind once more.
A study on sexual abuse victims suffering from PTSD conducted by Cynthia Price, concluded victims of PTSD showed a significant decrease in physiological and physical symptoms, after massage and body-oriented therapy (in addition to psychotherapy).
By providing a low cost massage therapy service to military members, there is the ability to provide relief of these symptoms without requiring that those suffering from PTSD admit outright that they are actually suffering from mental health issues.The safe environment allows the client to retrain their reflexes from a battlefield scenario to that of civilian life. This retraining has been shown to reduce daily stress levels, which will in turn reduce family conflicts and domestic violence incidents.
If this therapy is applied broadly with even a 25 percent decrease in violent incidents in military homes, there will be a ripple effect throughout the military community and therefore the regional communities that they live in.
By providing massage therapy at a significant discount from the standard market rate, families will be able to begin to use massage with their existing counseling.
Multiple studies have shown the benefits of massage to alleviate PTSD by retraining the muscle and emotional memories through safe touch. Currently, the Veteran's Administration does not cover massage therapy, nor is there a program existing to educate families about the benefits of integrating massage with counseling.
The concept of an extremely discounted rate means that the services will be more easily accessible to military families, many of whom are already experiencing financial difficulties with the return of a battle-traumatized soldier who is unable to find regular work while battling PTSD.
I have extensive contacts within the local, regional and national military branches. By utilizing these information networks, the awareness of my program can be distributed in a focused way, ensuring that those who would most be able to use this benefit are able to find it easily. In addition, providing promotional chair massages at local veteran centers or veteran appreciation events will only enhance my status and brand awareness in my target areas.
Improving my contacts within the local community can be done by contacting the mental health providers that I know both in and outside of the military medical network. Enhancing these contacts means that I will be able to provide a name (or sometimes multiple names) of a therapist in the home area of the client who will be able to provide the counseling which is essential to maximizing the benefits of massage with PTSD. Each of my intake forms will emphasize the confidentiality of my appointments, but will also provide the amendable option for me to communicate with the client's other medical providers in a clinical sense - discussing therapy results, client reactions to contact with certain bodily regions (back, legs, etc.), and suggestions from the other providers on where to focus my attention.
Much of the impediment to military families receiving care or therapy outside of the military medical network is cost. With the average massage therapy appointment costing $85 per hour, this is a significant expenditure for most working families on a biweekly basis. By reducing the price for military members and their families to $25 an hour, most or all of that barrier is reduced. Add in the fact that massage therapy can be reimbursed by a Health Savings Account when prescribed by a medical provider for therapeutic purposes, and that final restriction is reduced to nearly nothing.
I plan to supplement the services to military members by continuing to serve my current clientele and new corporate clients at a slightly-below-market rate of $65 per hour for massages. The difference in costs will allow me to travel farther and provide more services for military members without fear of bankrupting my business.
I have always had someone in my life who was a military member. From neighbors who returned from the first Gulf War and used to wake us in the middle of the night with gunshots into the air to my late father-in-law who served in WWII and Korea, I've seen the gamut.
By watching my father while he was the chapter director of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), my dedication to his efforts to reduce and eliminate military PTSD through therapy has only grown. I watched for years as he traveled to Washington, D.C. and met with the higher-ranking officers at the Pentagon to develop awareness and care protocols for the military. His passion for these sufferers has only enhanced my own, even though I have taken it in a slightly different direction.
I have an extensive background working as a massage therapist. What I want to do now is extend the availability of these services to those who would truly benefit from the stress relief and touch reintegration which comes from massage therapy.
It is my hope that getting this program off of the ground would eventually lead to multiple branches of the same program opening regionally and then nationally, helping more and more of our valued veterans.