Middletown research program pioneers treatment for PTSD New therapy helps veterans cope
By Nathan Brown Times Herald
Record Published: 2:00 AM - 03/21/14 Last updated: 12:16 PM - 03/21/14 MIDDLETOWN -
Psychologist Frank Bourke runs the R and R Trauma Center on Ridge Street in Middletown. The center, which uses a new therapy to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, got a $300,000 state grant.
A study is underway in Middletown that its proponents hope will help change the way Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is treated. So far, 12 military veterans have undergone treatment at the R and R Trauma Center on Ridge Street, six of whom met the criteria to be included in the study, said Richard Gray, the Director of Research. The other six had other serious co-occurring issues with the PTSD. The center gets its name from The Research and Recognition Project, the non-profit it's affiliated with, that supports the controversial, Neuro-Linguistic Programming model of behavioral therapy.
Call for participants: The R and R Trauma Center is still looking for veterans or current service members who are suffering from nightmares of traumatic experiences and flashbacks of traumatic memories to take part in the traumatic memories study. Participants will receive up to $200 and their identities will be protected, including from medical and military authorities. If interested, call 845-207-5178. The plan is to treat about 25 more veterans with PTSD, and wrap up the study of the effectiveness of the technique, called Reconsolidation of Traumatic Memories, by mid-April, said Frank Bourke, the psychologist who runs the center and heads the Research and Recognition Project. After that, the results will be published in a scientific journal. State Sen. Bill Larkin, R-C-Cornwall-on-Hudson, who is a Korean War veteran, sponsored the $300,000 state grant used to open the center.
The men hope to get another $1.5 million in the 2014 budget, which is being hashed out now, so the center can stay open and expand to treat many more veterans. The center has been in talks with local mental health agencies, so it can treat people who have other mental issues as well as PTSD, and offer therapy for marital issues and other problems that are frequent in PTSD sufferers.
The goal, Bourke said, is to turn it into a full-service trauma clinic. Follow-up studies are being developed in conjunction with Bradley University, Emory University, the University of North Carolina, and the University of New Mexico. The therapeutic technique involves having a patient visualize the traumatic events in different ways to disassociate with them and reduce the painful emotions associated with them.
Bourke first used this technique after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when the Aon Corp. hired him to counsel hundreds of its employees who had worked in the south tower of the World Trade Center.
Gray said it has, anecdotally, a much higher effectiveness rate than traditional therapies — and this is usually after just a few sessions. "We believe this is the biggest breakthrough in psychological treatment in 100 years," he said. One of the men the center successfully treated, Gray said, had struggled with PTSD for the past 40 years. "He can talk about it without tearing up (now)," Gray said. "His nightmares have stopped." The clinic is in a former medical office building in the shadow of the old Horton Hospital; it's owned by Tony Danza, the developer of the medical school that's being built in the hospital now. He's letting Bourke use the building rent-free.