I was grabbing a bite at the Baltimore airport when suddenly the place was overrun by national guardsmen about to leave for Iraq.. I dug into my bags and gave away every imagery CD I could find in there.. A few weeks ago, after having given my last workshop for The ConferenceWorks’ Series (Breakthroughs in Healing Trauma: Success with Guided Imagery and the New Therapies) I was at the Baltimore airport eating in one of those bland bar-restaurants with a captive audience of starving air travelers who know they’re going to need more than 5 peanuts to keep their blood sugar afloat, when suddenly the place was overrun by national guards in boots and camouflage fatigues, there to grab a quick bite of American food before leaving for Iraq.

I looked around. There were a lot of kids in their late teens and early twenties; and there were a lot of wary looking grown-ups in their thirties and even forties, too. I got into a conversation with the folks sitting at the table next to mine and soon we were talking about posttraumatic stress and what you can do for it. One woman was a seasoned yoga practitioner, and told me she was given to understand (from a family friend who’d fought in the Vietnam War) that yoga could act as a good mood-stabilizer/regulator and PTS innoculator. I agreed that it could be a tremendous help, as could meditation, breathwork and most especially imagery – both before, during and after traumatic events. By the time the waitress had come back with the check, I’d dug into my bags and given away every imagery CD I could find stashed away in there. And I’d exhorted to listen to them, once a day if possible, the more the better - even if they couldn’t stand them - just listen anyway!

That got me to thinking - why wasn’t the Pentagon dispensing imagery CDs? In the words of our Duke/Durham V.A. researchers, imagery is a highly effective, immersive, right brain, portable, self-administered intervention. It’s perfect to take to Iraq or Afghanistan or wherever, and to use regularly in situ. Haven’t we learn anything from what we didn’t do in Vietnam? And we know so much more now - yet, it’s quite possible that they’ll still continue to use Critical Incident Stress Debriefing on these kids - a technique that four different meta-analyses now show is NOT effective at preventing the onset of posttraumatic stress.

We’re getting several strong studies mounted to show the efficacy of imagery for PTSD with soldiers returning from Iraq, but in the meantime, we already have enough indications to warrant giving guided imagery a try with these kids. Our imagery for relaxation & wellness, general wellness, sleep, grief, depression and posttraumatic stress is used in many, many V.A. hospitals and Vet Centers around the U.S., but it’s dispensed in a scattered and incoherent way, by individual programs and clinicians who happen to know its value from an earlier push we were able to get going in the VA system, years ago. We need to get this stuff into a steady, distribution pipeline that’s systematic and that goes to the soldiers in the field, too. (And preferably before they even get there, as part of their preparation.) Why are we waiting for them to come back an emotional wreck?

We keep working our contacts, organizations and networks on our end, but if any one of you out there can help us - with a name, an organization, a key position, or a contact high up enough to make a difference - please contact Rich Coleman at [email protected] or write me here at [email protected]. Last week’s New York Times article had me tearing my hair out in frustration - it was entitled A Flood of Troubled Soldiers Is in the Offing, Experts Predict. Doh. We know this. We’ve got something that will help. How do we get it out there in a timely way??

In the meantime, if you want to send a Trauma Pack to a soldier you care about, along with a copy of Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (for those who need to understand why imagery helps before they’ll use it) by all means, go for it. The packs include imagery for stress reduction, sleep, trauma and grief - a combo designed to get the job done - and they’re on sale at http://www.healthjourneys.com/product_detail.asp?id=118 . The book is at http://www.healthjourneys.com/product_detail.asp?id=209. And, trust me, we’ll keep plugging away at this, too.

Have a wonderful holiday!
All Best,