A Breakthrough In PTSD Treatment

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By: Dr. Raul J. Rodriguez MD, DABPN, DABAM, MRO Special to the Boca and Delray newspapers

Post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD, is a disabling condition that can result from exposure to a traumatic event. Many people think of Vietnam War veterans when discussing PTSD, however many others also suffer from this emotionally painful condition. Sexual assault, physical assault, motor vehicle accidents, and natural catastrophes are other unfortunately common sources of traumatic exposure that can induce post-traumatic stress disorder. The severity of the trauma that can produce this condition is usually life threatening and either happens to or is witnessed by the affected individual. Individuals who are thought to be predisposed in some way could start experiencing intrusive memories and other forms of re-experiencing the trauma when exposed to these types of events. They start suffering from flashbacks, recurrent intrusive thoughts, nightmares, mood disturbances, anxiety, agitation, irritability, hostility, hypervigilance, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, and feelings of guilt. These distressing symptoms can lead to severe disruptions in most facets of daily functioning.  PTSD symptoms can cause a major decline in performance in school, at work, and in interpersonal relationships. The emotional distress caused by these symptoms notoriously trigger substance abuse, self-destructive behavior, and social isolation. The need for better forms of PTSD treatment is apparent, which lead to the development of the Delray Center Trauma Bloc program.

The Delray Center Trauma Bloc program was developed by Dr. Rodriguez and the Delray Center clinical team in 2016, in response to the growing need for better PTSD treatment.  This program is named after and built around the groundbreaking therapeutic treatment modality known as the Trauma Bloc. This system is a major modification and enhancement of Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PET), which is a well-established treatment for PTSD. Each “Bloc” is a carefully planned and timed therapeutic sequence.  A patient will usually undergo a series of 8-10 Trauma Bloc sessions over the course of a 12-week outpatient program. The first few weeks of the program emotionally and physically prepare the patient to engage in the Trauma Bloc sequences. Usually between program weeks 2 and 4, patients undergo their first installment.

The Trauma Bloc sequence starts with a Prolonged Exposure Therapy session. PET is an emotionally intense kind of therapy that is physiologically arousing. In the Trauma Bloc, the natural physiologic excitation is further accelerated after the PET session. This is done in a way to maximize the activation of the Amygdala, one of the parts of the brain implicated in PTSD and intentionally activated in Prolonged Exposure Therapy. The Amygdala is generally responsible for the expressing of emotion, which in the case of PTSD will predominantly be fear. The Amygdala hyper-excitation phase is then followed by a rapid physiologic deceleration phase, which helps cool off the Amygdala and promotes activation of the Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex (vmPFC). The Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex is a more advanced part of the brain involved in the processing of emotions and decision-making. Activation of the vmPFC is essential to processing emotional traumas in Prolonged Exposure Therapy. This vmPFC activation is enhanced by Trauma Bloc therapy. The net effect is a substantially improved response to PET and greater PTSD symptom resolution.

PTSD symptom resolution, both in the short and long term, is the ultimate objective of this program. This is achieved by completion of the prescribed number of Trauma Blocs as well as incorporating effective coping skills and emotional processing tools. This is why this program also encompasses the myriad therapeutic elements available at the Delray Center, such as DBT psychotherapy, psychopharmacology, group therapy, acupuncture, meditation, exercise therapy, and vitamin therapy. Effective psychotherapy and optimized coping skills help reduce the recurrence of PTSD symptoms and the need for additional PTSD therapy.

The patients that have thus far completed the Delray Center Trauma Bloc program have done exceptionally well. Many of these patients had suffered from PTSD for years and had also failed other treatments previously. The reduction in PTSD symptom intensity for many of the patients was significant after even 4 Trauma Bloc sequences. For most patients the symptoms were in full remission by the time they completed at least 8 trauma Bloc sequences. This is one of the newest Delray Center programs and yet it is already one of the most successful.

Dr Rodriguez is the founder, CEO and Medical Director of the Delray Center For Healing, which specializes in comprehensive outpatient treatment of PTSD, Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, & Eating Disorders.  The Delray Center proudly offers the Trauma Bloc program for individuals who suffer from PTSD.