Taking Charge: A Pilot Curriculum of Self-Defense and Personal Safety Training for Female Veterans With PTSD Because of Military Sexual Trauma

The authors describe an overview of the pilot project Taking Charge, a 36-hour comprehensive behavioral intervention involving psychoeducation, personal safety, and self-defense training for 12 female veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from military sexual trauma. Self-defense training can incorporate the benefits of repeated exposure while teaching proactive cognitive and behavioral responses to the feared stimuli, and thus facilitate emotional and physical rescripting of and mastery over the trauma. Results up to 6 months follow-up indicate significant reductions in behavioral avoidance, PTSD hyperarousal, and depression, with significant increases in interpersonal, activity, and self-defense self-efficacy. The authors propose that this therapeutic self-defense curriculum provides an enhanced exposure therapy paradigm that may be a potent therapeutic tool in the treatment of PTSD
David,Wendy S.
Simpson,Tracy L.
Cotton,Ann J.
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Journal of Interpersonal Violence
A group of twelve female veterans (average age 48.3 years) in treatment for PTSD at a VA hospital participated in this 12-week, 36-hour pilot treatment program. Each three-hour group session included one hour of psychoeducation and role-play; one hour of physical self-defense training with a male and a female instructor, and one hour of debriefing. Three female psychologists were present throughout each session. Data was collected from ten women: twice before the intervention, immediately after completion, and at three and six months after. Significant changes lasting over time included: being able to better identify risky vs. safe situations; less avoidance of social situations to avoid triggering memories; less hyperarousal; less depression; and increased self-efficacy. A strong bond developed among participants which may have helped all twelve complete the program. This study was limited by a small sample size of self-selected participants who were carefully screened for psychological and physical stability. Further studies should be done to determine if equally positive results are found in other groups.
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Military; survivors; treatment
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