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Fort Hood shooting underscores the need for effective treatments for vets

There are more questions than answers following the shooting at Fort Hood Army Base in Texas. The man suspected of killing three people and himself in a shooting rampage Wednesday has been identified as 34-year-old Ivan Lopez, a soldier said to be undergoing treatment for mental health issues.

Fort Hood and the nation are stunned by another deadly rampage.
Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images

In an exclusive interview with on April 3, Dawson Church, Ph.D., said the tragedy should motivate the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs (VA) to find effective drug-free treatments for the hundreds of thousands of military personnel suffering with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health issues.

Dr. Church is a leading emotional freedom techniques (EFT) researcher who has conducted several well-designed studies showing the effectiveness of EFT tapping for PTSD. One study found that six sessions of EFT eliminated or substantially reduced symptoms of PTSD in the vast majority of participants. In all, more than 20 randomized controlled trials show that EFT is an effective intervention for PTSD, anxiety, depression, phobias and other mental health disorders that affect many veterans. Clinical EFT is a simple, drug-free technique that combines acupressure with cognitive and exposure therapies.

The VA has stonewalled the efforts of Dr. Church, other mental health providers, and even lawmakers who have written letters urging the VA to make EFT available to veterans. Instead, Dr. Church says, the VA spent $717 million between 2001 and 2011 on a drug, called Risperidone, that researchers found was no more effective than a placebo. The VA stopped using the drug following the study.

"We've tried polite persuasion for 10 years to get the VA to offer EFT to veterans to no avail," Dr. Church says. "It's not acceptable. We have a solution that can help the VA deal with this growing problem. Our soldiers deserve a treatment that can help them get their lives back."

Dr. Church remains passionate about offering veterans a way to overcome PTSD. He says there are grassroots efforts underway at some VA facilities that offer some EFT services. In fact, many mental health providers at Fort Hood will be attending Dr. Church's EFT training in Austin April 12-16. In addition, Dr. Church will present at grand rounds for mental health professionals at Fort Hood on April 17.

He also plays a pivotal role in the Veterans Stress Project an organization that offers free and low-cost EFT sessions to veterans. To date, more than 6,000 veterans have received services through the project.

The next step is federal legislation. Ohio democratic representative Tim Ryan has introduced H.R. 3516: The Veterans and Armed Forces Health Promotion Act of 2013. This bill would require the VA to expand the level of holistic services available to veterans.

"We have hundreds of thousands of soldiers returning home who face tremendous emotional issues, have high suicide rates, and become high utilizers of medical services," Dr. Church says. "Yet they aren't getting the help they need. It's time to launch a national solution. We need a national level response from the VA."

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