Army Reserve Veteran Finds Hope and Healing with STRIVE Program

Battlefield Therapy May Ease Anyone’s PTSD

Nov. 17, 2023 – Selina Jackson, an Army Reserve veteran, has faced battles both on and off the battlefield. Growing up in what she describes as a combat zone in upstate New York, Selina endured traumatic experiences including witnessing her parents engage in brutal fights, her alcoholic father abusing her older sister, and her own sexual abuse by a trusted family friend. The weight of these events remained a secret until the COVID-19 pandemic forced Selina to confront her past while being confined to her home.

Unable to distract herself from her thoughts, Selina’s posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) became overwhelming. Daily life became a struggle as she battled guilt, shame, and intrusive symptoms. Unfortunately, Selina’s story is not unique. PTSD affects millions of people worldwide, with women being twice as likely to experience it as men. Female veterans, in particular, often face trauma before entering the military and are at a higher risk of experiencing sexual assault or harassment during their service.

But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. PTSD often goes undiagnosed, with many patients failing to recognize or running away from the signs and symptoms. Misdiagnosis and incorrect treatment can exacerbate the challenges faced by those with PTSD. The world becomes smaller for PTSD sufferers as they avoid relationships, work, and activities they once enjoyed. Memories squeak out in different ways, affecting sleep, concentration, and self-perception. Without treatment, these symptoms can become chronic and impair important aspects of functioning.

Enter STRIVE (Suicide and Trauma Reduction Initiative), a program offered by the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. STRIVE, founded by clinical psychologist and retired Air Force veteran Craig J. Bryan, provides research-based strategies for addressing trauma, reducing gun violence risk, and preventing suicide. The program’s origins are rooted in combat zone soldiers who needed rapid, compressed therapy to address psychological trauma.

One of the primary techniques used by STRIVE is cognitive processing therapy (CPT). This therapy helps patients challenge and modify unhelpful beliefs, allowing for a more balanced perspective on the traumatic events they experienced. By alleviating anxiety, fear, guilt, and shame, CPT empowers patients to live more fully.

Selina credits STRIVE with helping her turn her life around. Now 53 and residing in Ohio, she confidently states, “I love who I am right now.” The STRIVE program, offered both in-person and through telehealth, spans 10 daily, hour-long sessions with therapists. Full participation and completion of daily assignments are required, ensuring patients are fully engaged in their recovery. STRIVE boasts an impressive 76% recovery rate, similar to other studies on cognitive processing therapy.

Recovery isn’t always linear, and relapses can occur months after completing the program. However, these flare-ups serve as reminders rather than full-blown PTSD episodes. Patients who continue to practice the skills they learn during STRIVE have a higher chance of sustainable recovery.

For those who need ongoing support, STRIVE offers booster sessions, and the program is entirely free. By participating in the program, patients contribute to valuable research while receiving high-quality therapy. With the newfound hope and perspective provided by STRIVE, Selina plans to move back to upstate New York in the spring, ready to embrace a life of living rather than just surviving.

To learn more about STRIVE, including eligibility for the program, visit here. For additional information and resources, particularly for veterans, the National Center for PTSD is an excellent source. If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, help is available 24/7 by calling 988 or reaching out to the Veterans Crisis Line at 988 and pressing 1. STRIVE also offers specialized assistance through the STRIVE BCBT program for current service members, veterans, and first responders experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Join Selina and countless others who have discovered hope and healing through STRIVE. Don’t just survive—thrive.