Desert Storm vet finds PTSD help with Cognitive Processing Therapy

Ken Culler

MEEKER | Ken Culler, a Desert Storm veteran, wants fellow veterans to know that there is now state-of-the-art psychological (non-medication) help for military personnel, veterans, first responders and family members struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and suicidal thoughts.

This ground-breaking work is being carried on by the National Center for Veterans Studies (NCVS; https://veterans.utah.edu) at the University of Utah. At no cost, it addresses not only PTSD but also other conditions and problems: suicidal thoughts, insomnia, nightmares, depression, anxiety and chronic pain. All military personnel and veterans are eligible for treatment regardless of era of service, discharge status or service branch or component.

Also part of NCVS is their STRIVE (Suicide and Trauma Reduction Initiative for Veterans) project, a three-year treatment and training effort, all made possible by a generous gift to the NCVS from the Boeing Company.

According to their website, more than 70 percent of service members and veterans receiving NCVS services no longer have PTSD, and there has been a 76 percent reduction in suicide attempts among military personnel.

As he openly shared with the Herald Times, Culler’s struggle with PTSD has been severe and ongoing since 1989, and the NCVS has been an enormous help.

“What a super intense but incredible class,” he said after completing the two-week course in June. “We had two to three hours of homework per night. The process they are using is called Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT).”

CPT is a 12-session treatment where one meets individually with a well-trained clinician for 60-minute sessions as they work through an extensive and intensive workbook.

“Sessions were heavy-duty,” Culler recalled. “There were tears, there was anger. But at the end, there came—kind of like in the Christian sense—a peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). It started to work its way into us.”

Again revealing a glimpse of his own “inner demons,” he recounted one particular session during which he was asked to pick an intense combat situation and talk about why it still bothers him. “For me it was hand-to-hand combat. They helped me settle down some of those demons, and even though I’ll live with it for the rest of my life, I now have some tools to help me get through those really rough days.”

But this was not all about a classroom, a clinician and a course book. Each afternoon also consisted of activities, including: archery, rock climbing, rappelling, cycling, mountain biking, hiking and others. But this, too, was therapeutic as it built trust in and communication with others.

“This is something I want to get out to all the veterans,” Culler concluded. “Hey, it’s incredible. I’ve been to four other PTSD schools throughout the VA system. The first one helped me out tremendously—(the others) did more harm than good. But this one helps me build ‘muscle memory’ as I do homework everyday. I know there are other veterans with PTSD but aren’t talking. Maybe they will reach out to me so I can help them get the help they need.”

By Doc Watson | Special to the Herald Times

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