PTSD trial treatment starts Monday; demo Sunday

A Columbus psychotherapist is moving forward with plans to treat active duty soldiers and their families suffering from post traumatic stress disorder using a specialized acupressure technique despite the Army's lack of support.

Harold McRae has worked with hundreds of soldiers over the past 35 years who have been diagnosed with PTSD. Traditional treatments such as exposure therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, talk therapies and cognitive behavioral therapy, which re-expose the patient to the trauma until the brain resolves it through repetition, are effective methods, but McRae thinks there might be a better way to treat this crushing disorder.

Tapas Acupressure Technique (TAT) is a healing method that utilizes a form of energy psychology developed in 1993 by acupressure and acupuncture specialist Tapas Fleming. It is supposed to help patients let go of the past and eradicate fears and phobias by restructuring neural pathways that have been damaged by stress. It does this, McRae said, without putting patients back in touch emotionally with the trauma.

The workshop is scheduled to begin Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the Columbus Airport Hotel on Sydney Simons Boulevard. Fleming, of California, and three other TAT specialists are coming to town Friday.

The public is invited to attend a brief demonstration Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Columbus Airport Hotel. During the meeting, McRae and others will explain what will take place in the following week's workshop. He hopes the demonstration will leave people with an understanding of what energy psychology is and how TAT can help ease the symptoms of PTSD particularly in active duty soldiers and their loved ones.

Last month, McRae asked Fort Benning officials to help him enlist active duty soldiers stationed there who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan to participate in what he's calling the "Courage to Change Project: A PTSD recovery program utilizing education and TAT at Fort Benning, Ga." The premise is that 10 consecutive days of a combination of PTSD education and TAT session will help reduce the symptoms of PTSD among all family members.

The Army would not endorse the project, saying TAT has not been scientifically validated or federally approved.

Discouraged yet still determined to find the soldiers and conduct the trial, McRae ran advertisements in the Ledger-Enquirer, enlisting participants. As of this morning, about 25 people had signed up. McRae and his associates were hoping and prepared to treat 40 people.

"The Courage to Change Project" is funded and supported primarily by community donations.

"I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from this community," McRae said.

Participants are asked to pay a $20 fee, but McRae said no one would be turned away and "scholarships" are available.