Overview: Heroes on the Water (HOW), Coordinated Therapeutic Programs provide alternative therapy options to providers of treatment to individuals diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The benefits of the HOW programs in conjunction with traditional methods of treatment, including recreational, individual, expressive, and group therapy, are significant. The experience can transcend barriers, enhance safety, decrease anxiety and the other symptoms associated with PTSD and TBI, thereby enhancing the overall treatment process. Heroes on the Water is actively seeking partnerships with established treatment programs, including inpatient traditional facilities and outpatient group sessions, to assist in the healing process, while facilitating a positive interaction with nature for our nations warriors.
Results: The simple act of fishing opens doors to begin the healing process in treatment. Just sitting in the kayak on the water in a therapeutic environment gives the individual an opportunity to let go in safety, breathe, and interface with nature. These emotional responses result in a significant decrease in the symptoms of hypervigilance, anxiety, flashbacks/nightmares, stress, and other symptoms associated with PTSD and TBI. Our survey, given before and after participating in the program, measures four specific areas: Overall Stress, Hyper-Vigilance, Avoidance and Isolation, and Flashbacks/Nightmares. The significance of the results is measurable and able to be replicated throughout the program with just one experience a week. The changes in symptom presentation improves the overall quality of care for the individual. Because of the significant decrease in symptoms and greater quality of care, the length of voluntary stay in a treatment program increases on average of 4.1 days (change from 21.5 to 25.6 on average).
PTSD Group Observation: “The group was very excited to be out on the water. Many of the group members met with Craig before group started to assist with unloading kayaks and getting things set up. As we started out on the water, members of the group encouraged one another and stayed in relatively close proximity. There was a great sense of community. When we got to the beach to begin group, the group as a whole was in a very positive mood. This mood carried throughout the group, even while discussing triggers and cravings. Group members were very more apt to verbally support one another than I have seen in the usual group setting. The patients continued to bond with one another after the group was over and the patients were kayaking back to the beach. Several members organized a friendly race while non-participants watched. The patients were smiling, laughing, and enjoying one another’s company. On the beach, all of the group members pitched in and helped take care of the kayaks properly, all the while commenting on how much they enjoyed the morning activity.” Remarks from Masters in Social Work Intern