Welcome to another edition of Go Ask Mother. I’m receiving a lot of interesting questions from my readers, and I plan to make Go Ask Mother a regular part of Nurse Ratched’s Place.

Last week, AZRN from researchgrrl wrote:

MJ, in your professional opinion, are there treatments for PTSD that work well? I don’t know that much about psych nursing (it was a looong time ago :D )

Thanks for bringing up this important subject. I think we are going to see more PTSD as more soldiers return from Iraq.

I don’t know all the answers to this question, however, I will tell you how I help patients suffering from PTSD. Several years ago I had the privilege of meeting a psychiatric nurse practitioner who was helping Pentagon staff members deal with the aftermath of 9/11. I met with her at the Pentagon for lunch, and we talked about the techniques she was using to help staff members deal with PTSD. She said that her goal was to teach patients that they are having a normal reaction to an abnormal event, and that she used cognitive therapy techniques to achieve her goal. She said, “We are what we think,” and by changing our perceptions of the things happening around us, we can alter how we feel and, most importantly, how we act. She assisted her patients in devising strategies for dealing with their symptoms, such as insomnia and poor concentration, and she stressed that people suffering from PTSD mustn’t be allowed to fall into the sick role, or else they will not move forward with their lives.

When I work with patients suffering with PTSD, I’m careful not to demean or embarrass my patients by challenging their feelings. I tell them that they are not going “crazy,” but that they are reacting to a crazy event that happened in their life. I taught one patient who could feel himself slipping into a state of panic to repeat the phrase, “here and now.” He said the phrase kept him in the present, and helped him to refocus when painful memories started invading his thoughts.

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