Residential Treatment of PTSD at CooperRiis
Although the symptoms of PTSD can be overwhelming and daunting, at CooperRiis we believe that recovery is achievable. Informed by a recovery model that emphasizes possibility over illness or symptoms the focus shifts to hope. Building hope can be incredibly empowering for those suffering with PTSD. The work we do with our residents to create a Dream Statement (link to another page) helps people both envision and work towards a brighter future.
At CooperRiis, we focus on recovery rather than illness or diagnosis and shift the focus onto wellness and possibility. Each new resident who arrives at CooperRiis meets with our clinical team and participates in a full mental health evaluation enabling us to get a clear picture of the whole person, present and past symptoms, and their medical treatment history. We develop a partnership with each person to plan for their future. We call this plan the Dream Statement.
Evidence-Based Treatment for PTSD
Wellness Recovery Action Plan®
We ask that all residents participate in WRAP, a group that discusses what wellness and recovery look like. WRAP stands for:
Wellness – Recovery – Action – Plan
WRAP sessions are an opportunity for residents to identify:
- What it looks like when things are going well
- Helpful daily maintenance activities
- Their most significant triggers
- Early signs that symptoms may be worsening
- What typically happens for them when things are breaking down
- And most importantly, it develops a personalized plan for dealing with adverse symptoms when they appear.
Residents complete a written copy of their Wellness and Recovery Action Plan. The plan becomes a useful way for them to identify patterns and a helpful guide for how to maintain a healthy and productive life.
PTSD Medications and Supplements
Medications and supplements, such as vitamins, minerals, and plant extracts, help manage the symptoms of PTSD, such as nightmares and anxiety, and lessen the intensity of the triggering events. The medications most commonly used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Medication aids the recovery process, and in conjunction with other therapies offered at CooperRiis, can be highly effective.
We always aim for the lowest dose of medication for the highest effect. The resident is fully involved in this process by keeping us apprised of how he or she is feeling, and if the symptoms have subsided. Overall quality of life should improve along with symptom reduction. Our goal is for medication that works long-term and with the fewest symptoms and side effects.
This combination of our community, our work program, therapy, and medication all contribute to healing and recovery.
Therapy — individual and group therapy, as recognized by The National Institute of Mental Health — provides an effective form of treatment for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
- Teach relaxation skills
- Help people deal with overwhelming feelings about a triggering event
- Educate people about how trauma affects the brain and body
- Teach effective emotional management
- Provide tips for better sleep, diet, and exercise
- Help people change how they react to PTSD symptoms
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an integrative psychotherapy approach used at CooperRiis that has been proven effective for treating trauma.
In addition to group and individual therapy, other healing modalities such as massage, yoga, and meditation can be effective for PTSD. We teach wellness skills to add to a ‘toolbox’ of coping skills. Residents learn to access this toolbox if they begin to experience overwhelming symptoms.
Residents with PTSD often avoid social interactions because they are afraid they will be triggered in public. But if a resident has the skills to cope when triggered, avoidance often diminishes—learning how to manage overwhelming feelings becomes freeing.
Since 2003, CooperRiis has helped people recover from PTSD with a holistic approach to healing personalized for each individual.
PTSD and Healing Community: Treating the Whole Person
Building a sense of physical and emotional safety is vital for those recovering from trauma. We provide a welcoming, caring, and compassionate community that respects people’s emotional state and supports them. We also take the time to get to know the whole person and nurture all their strengths.
At CooperRiis, residents spend much of their waking time in the company of supportive staff and peers. Some of this time is spent on one of a variety of work crews. Structured work routines provide a sense of purpose and opportunities to work collaboratively. Residents can practice taking risks and sharing with others as well as addressing triggers to PTSD. Purposeful routines demonstrate to residents that what they do matters to others and that they are valuable to the community. Every facet of the resident’s life is addressed.
Seven Domains of a Whole, Healthy Person
Our residents work with an interdisciplinary recovery team, which is comprised of professionals with expertise in the above domains. Because every person is different, some domains will receive more emphasis than others, but all will be attended to.
Family Education and Support
The resident’s family is an essential part of their treatment team at CooperRiis. Family support of someone with mental illness can reduce re-hospitalization by up to 75 percent over three years (SAMHSA). Our families are also in need of recovery, support, and the tools to care for their loved ones. Strong families help support healthy recoveries.
Although we strongly encourage family participation, the resident guides and informs our communications with family members. We encourage our residents to reach out to their families in healthy and beneficial ways.
Each resident has a family liaison, a Recovery Coordinator, who communicates with family members regularly. Since bipolar disorder can cause disruptions and stress for the family, family members may also benefit from professional resources.
CooperRiis supports families through:
- Education about the nature of mental illnesses and how to best support a loved one
- Regularly scheduled family meetings
- Free, 3-Day Family Education Weekends twice a year
- A free online course called Families Healing Together
- A dedicated family liaison who communicates with family members every other week
Is Mental Health Treatment Effective at CooperRiis?
The CooperRiis’ model of recovery works. Data collected during a ten year study, shows individual recovery progress within the CooperRiis residential program based upon therapeutic community principles and a Seven Domains Enhanced Recovery Model (Young, Schactman and Snyder, 2014).
Results demonstrate recovery progress on many different domains of wellness in addition to symptom reduction, including gains in functioning, emotional well-being, sense of purpose and hopefulness.
Residents routinely make gains in emotional well-being and hopefulness. and over 80 percent of our residents pursue employment, volunteer service or school while in our community programs, and increasingly manage independent living.
2019 Alumni Survey Results
are engaged in either competitive employment, volunteering, or going to school.
Frequently Asked Questions
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that develops after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event or learning that a traumatic event has happened to a loved one. PTSD is most often associated with veterans and wartime involvement, but there are many experiences that can cause PTSD. Some examples are:
- Threat of death or serious injury
- Sexual abuse, violence and rape
- Chronic physical abuse, severe emotional abuse and neglect
- Living through natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, or fires
- Community violence like attacks at a local school
- The suicide of a friend or family member
Post-traumatic stress disorder often accompanies other anxiety disorders, mood disorders like depression, or substance use. Women are twice as likely as men to develop PTSD. People with PTSD often relive traumatic events through flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive memories which can be almost as stressful as the original event. Although people do develop PTSD from experiencing natural disasters, trauma caused by other people is more likely to result in the development of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Anxiety often serves as a warning system that alerts us to threats. Anxiety helps protect us from harm and helps us react quickly when we are in danger. When anxiety becomes excessive and is no longer beneficial, it may become an anxiety disorder such as PTSD.
In the case of PTSD, people re-experience the traumatic event that originally triggered their symptoms even when no actual threat is present. People suffering from PTSD experience a cycle of distressing intrusive memories and states of high anxiety. Behaviors, such as isolation, can emerge to avoid triggering anxiety. People experiencing the symptoms of PTSD often describe themselves as overwhelmed.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is diagnosed after a person experiences symptoms for at least one month following a traumatic event. However, symptoms do not always appear quickly. It can take months, or even years, for PTSD symptoms to manifest.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is characterized by four main types of symptoms:
- Reliving a traumatic event through intrusive recollections, anxiety attacks, flashbacks, and nightmares
- Emotional numbness
- Avoidance of normal daily activities and other people
- Feeling cut off from others and negative mood and thought patterns
- Increased reactivity and difficulty sleeping, feeling jumpy, easily irritated and angered
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