Many individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can feel overwhelmed in situations with high levels of sensory input. Examples of this includes being in crowds or in situations with complex sensory characteristics such as where noise or lights are intense. These difficulties appear to be related to subtle sensory processing changes where visual and auditory processing has been found to be substantially altered in PTSD. Changes in sensory processing are thought to be responsible for the feelings of hyper arousal and flooding that are often experienced.
Bearing this in mind, it is hardly surprising that we find individuals with PTSD living off grid in remote locations, trying to avoid situations where they would experience sensory overload, and finding some relief by being out in the natural world.
Nature offers opportunities for gentle all round sensory experiences that are based in an environment that is generally well known to participants and many feel at home with. Therefore, nature can be a tool for helping those with PTSD come to some understanding of their own personal way of being.
The Forces of Nature programme is a six week programme where each week we focus on a different sense. Each workshop, or Quest as we prefer to call them, provides the catalyst for participants to become immersed in that sense at their own pace and to their own level. The aim is for participants to start to develop their own self insights into their own way of being through a process of sensory mapping whilst feeling part of bonded group.
Sensory approaches are becoming increasingly popular in mental health interventions because they provide experiential opportunities for participants to develop self-insight into their own sensory experiences and learn to begin to heal the mind through the physical sensations of their body. These experiences help to contradict feelings of being overwhelmed, helpless and paralysed - as sensory experiences can help foster feelings of safety.
The programme takes place in a group situation in different areas of outstanding natural beauty such as woodland, cliffs or beaches. It is run as a closed group in order to help individuals network with people they may not know and begin to feel safe with in a social group. Each group contains ex members of the armed forces and also community members that are able to provide additional support if required. Many of the group members have personal experience of PTSD.
Elements of Mindfulness are introduced at each Quest which provides for participants to practice this approach to help them deal with sensory situations that may feel overwhelming at any time in the future.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) medical pathway recommends trauma focused cognitive behavioural treatment for PTSD and states that there appears to be no convincing evidence for hypnotherapy, psychodynamic therapy, or systemic psychotherapy. However, NICE does identify the need for social support - which is an aim of the Forces of Nature programme.
Nature therapy provides for a nurturing, healing and trauma informed approach to PTSD as an adjunct to medically prescribed treatment.
For further information please feel free to contact Dr Kim Brown on 07922617479