TAMPA, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -
A third of combat veterans battle symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. That's according to the PTSD Foundation of America.
That includes everything from flashbacks to blackouts and experts said it can lead to a number of issues including failed marriages, homelessness, or even suicide. However, some local therapists believe they may have the answer.
Brian Anderson's last deployment in 2011 left the Green Beret physically fine, but battling invisible wounds.
"One of my best friends who was killed during that deployment,” said Anderson. “I was having problems actually looking at the car next to me. I would like at the car next to me and he would be driving it. I was having a lot of difficulty with some of those visuals-bullets going through my head or anger coming through the door."
The 31-year-old husband and father tried traditional treatments.
"They just weren't as effective for me," said Anderson.
The Pasco County Veteran Services officer heard about Accelerated Resolution Therapy or ART last summer. He said he felt better after just one session.
"It doesn't say that I don't deal with difficulties related to combat,” said Anderson. “It's just that I don't have the images related to the present moment."
Licensed Mental Health Counselor Jessica Gilstrap runs Gilstrap & Associates. Her office is the only ART certified one in Orlando.
"What we do during ART mimics what the brain does while it's sleeping,” said Gilstrap. “You dream and you're trying to think through, work through the issues of the day."
ART works by getting patients to watch a therapist's hands move back and forth while focusing on their fear or a traumatic memory. Patients must then replace that memory with a new positive one.
"It's not hypnosis at all," said Gilstrap.
Therapists said patients usually see results in three to five sessions.
"As we are doing the eye movements, you can actually see the person; this stuff moving through their brain," said Gilstrap.
Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Diego Hernandez runs the art research project at the University of South Florida.
"What we've found is that ART reduces the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder-- nightmares, flashbacks, reduces anxiety, depression," said Dr. Diego.
Steven Soares helps run the Camaraderie Foundation—an organization dedicated to healing veterans’ invisible wounds. The organization partnered with both USF and Gilstrap’s Office to try to connect veterans with this new treatment.
"I want it to be a frontline treatment for PTSD," said Soares.
Soares said his organization has paid for therapy for 63 veterans and their families in 10 different states. Each scholarship is worth about $600.
"No veteran is going to get turned away," said Soares.
They're helping our heroes regain their lives after fighting for ours.
"My wife has definitely noticed a change," said Anderson.
Researchers admit the therapy is new, but add they're already witnessing great results in patients without PTSD, as well. Gilstrap said it could help just about anyone battling a difficult memory-- ranging from a car accident to a sexual assault.
The public is now able to apply to become a part of the next study. Contact Gilstrap and Associates at 407-522-9919 or www.gilstrapandassociates.com for more information.