VA NY Harbor Health Care System
Living an Interrupted Life
Tuesday, June 5, 2012Helping people make sense of the past so they can truly live in the present is the bottom line of Skills Training in Affective and Interpersonal Regulation (STAIR) therapy. The program is offered at VA’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) clinic at VA New York Harbor Healthcare System’s Manhattan Campus.
Christie Jackson, Director of the PSTD Clinic at VA’s Manhattan Campus, was trained in STAIR Therapy by her mentor Marylene Cloitre, who is now Assoc. Director of Research at VA Palo Alto at the National Center for PTSD. Jackson put STAIR therapy into motion treating patients at VA New York Harbor Healthcare System and is spearheading efforts to train clinical staff, clinical psychology interns, and NYU Residents in this specialized approach for Veterans who have experienced complex traumas.
“STAIR is very directive. The therapist guides the sessions, and asks Veterans to complete assignments between sessions, “ Jackson said explaining that this is not a therapy that involves the patient talking to a silent therapist.
The length of the treatment is not open ended. “ That’s the beauty of this approach, “ said Jackson, “We want people to be living their lives. After 16 weeks of treatment, they’re done. Of course they can always return to VA for additional work, but in terms of intensive PTSD treatment, they’re done. Jackson has been collecting data over the past year and, “It shows that people are getting better, “she said.
STAIR therapy is especially designed for people with complex problems. She explained that, “Most Veterans don’t experience a single trauma. Complex trauma may involve both childhood traumas and multiple adult traumas. STAIR therapy in intended to help Veterans who have experienced the more complicated types of trauma to reach a place where they can tolerate distress before engaging with a therapist in a modified, prolonged exposure therapy protocol that is available at VA”
Jackson said a fairly usual scenario involving a patient with PTSD related to complex trauma might be a Veteran who experienced childhood abuse. As an young adult they joined the military as a way to build a better life, escape the home environment and serve their county. That Veteran then sees combat in Iraq. “So, the treatment is not simple. The adult trauma brings forward the issues from childhood, “ Jackson explained.
Describing another example of complex trauma, Jackson said VA clinicians might encounter female Veterans who have experienced sexual abuse as children and then as adults are survivors of Military Sexual Trauma in addition to PTSD. The combination of all of these assaults usually results in difficulty managing emotions and in maintaining effective relationships, “said Jackson. “STAIR helps people deal with their emotions and interpersonal relationships.”
“We consider that trauma interrupts a person’s life," explained Jackson. This specialized psychotherapy addresses the ‘interrupted life,’ said Jackson.