Since opening its doors in 2015, the Emory Healthcare Veterans Program has served over 2,328 post-9/11 veterans and service members through the Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). The IOP is a two-week treatment program designed to heal invisible wounds such as PTSD, traumatic brain injury (TBI), military sexual trauma (MST), anxiety, and depression. The care is free and confidential for eligible post-9/11 veterans and service members living anywhere in the United States, regardless of discharge status.
Trent B. is a graduate of the IOP and credits the Emory Healthcare Veterans Program for reclaiming his life from PTSD.
Before joining the Naval Civil Engineer Corps at 19, Trent worked for his family’s construction business. “I went from pouring concrete for my dad to pouring concrete for Navy,” says Trent.
While on deployment in Iraq, he experienced a traumatic event that made returning to civilian life challenging.
“We were in a small town in Iraq working on security and doing construction work,” he says. “At one point, someone yelled for us to take cover, but I didn’t know what was going on at the time. I saw a child walking down the street, and there was a bomb strapped to his body. I watched as he was shot and killed.”
Despite being surrounded by people that day, Trent never spoke about what had happened.
“I never talked about it, my unit never talked about it, the guys who watched it happen never talked about it,” he says. “My phone call to Emory Healthcare Veterans Program to apply for the Intensive Outpatient Program was the first time I ever spoke about what I saw that day.”
While at home, Trent attempted to hide that he struggled with PTSD by distancing himself from his family and friends.
“I tried to fight through the problems and convince myself that I was okay, but the moment came when I knew that I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing and feeling the way that I felt,” says Trent.
The stress from his divorce served as a catalyst, and after trying, unsuccessfully, to “fix” the issues stemming from PTSD and depression on his own, Trent sought help at Emory Healthcare Veterans Program.
There was no hesitation when the day came to schedule his start date for the two-week treatment. “The sooner, the better,” thought Trent. On his first day of therapy, Trent remembers being with the other program participants in the Warrior Room (a lounge area for participants) as they waited for the first therapy session to begin.
“We were all worried that this wasn’t going to work out. We were scared about what was going to happen. The social workers told us that everyone begins the program feeling this way, and the first few days suck, but we were going to be okay, and they [Emory Healthcare Veterans Program clinicians and social workers] knew what they were doing.”
In Vivo Therapy
The IOP’s in vivo sessions had the most significant impact on Trent.
“The therapy sessions were great,” he says. “But the exercises that required me to get out there and put my new skills into practice affected me the most.”
During the in vivo sessions, Trent and his clinician created settings that would typically cause him high anxiety, such as driving through rush hour traffic and walking through crowds of people. Trent practiced using the tools he learned during his therapy sessions to push through the anxiety-inducing in vivo situations.
“Having to go to a restaurant and sit with my back towards the door was the most effective for me. I just went to a concert the other weekend and had no problems being there, something that would have never happened before treatment,” he says.
Reclaiming Your Life from PTSD
Since graduating from the IOP, Trent still utilizes the coping skills he learned.
“I meditate every morning and evening now,” he says. “Something I would have never done previous to treatment because I thought it was hippie stuff.”
He notes that meditation is useful during times that naturally induce high anxiety.
“Fireworks would always get me,” he recounts. “But now I know how to remind myself that I am in Georgia, not Iraq, and that it is the 4th of July.”
When asked, Trent describes the difference he has seen in himself after treatment.
“The difference is night and day,” he says. “Before IOP, it was tough for me to be around people. I didn’t like going out and being away from home, but I also didn’t like being at home. I was anxious, constantly looking over my shoulder. Now I am social again, and I enjoy being with my family and friends. I am back to being me.”
Learn More About Emory Healthcare Veterans Program
Treatment works, and we are here to help. Call 888-514-5345 or complete the form at the link below to learn more about how Emory Healthcare Veterans Program provides free and confidential care for post-9/11 warriors struggling with invisible wounds.