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The Journey Back to Normal-A Look at Complementary Therapies to Combat PTSD

My name is Nicole Amelio-Casper and I am a veteran’s spouse. I am a documentary filmmaker and freelance producer for ABC News National. 

I spent over 2 decades traveling with my family in the military. There were many years of good times. There was so much excitement  moving from state to state and meeting new friends. Each community had its own tight knit military community. We even lived in Europe for almost 3 years which was such an adventure. We flew on military planes to different countries and sometimes we were the only family on the plane! The pilot would take my kids to cockpit – it was a C17 and if you know anything about military planes, they are mammoth. So We made a lot good memories. But then there were the deployments…

I am NOW a veteran spouse, – I was one of the many military spouses on the other side of the pond supporting my close girlfriends, my husband’s colleagues and friends and my husband as they endured deployments.  

When they returned home with wounds, some were seen, some were unseen. Some came home with wounds so deep, they withdrew from others, and lost their a sense of normalcy.

These are the men and women with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Currently, medical professionals give antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication, and even Botox to alleviate PTSD symptoms.  However, sometimes masking the symptoms with medication doesn’t attack the issue(s) head on. And as many can attest, Veterans of the Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam wars and are scarred with wounds that are hard to cope with and sometimes they fester inside; but once they do surface,  many veterans conceal the symptoms as they reintegrate with their families, and in their communities, and in the workplace. I know this to be true because of my conversations with those in the film and with many conversations with my close friends and military family.

THE VA generally does offer trauma focused psychotherapies such as Prolonged Exposure therapy, Cognitive Processing Therapy, and others. The VA has incredible resources and the therapies. However, they may not be effective for everyone.  

This really hit home when one of my best friends in North Carolina who was in the Army for 24 years revealed to me she had PTSD. She told me her story – every single detail-from the moment of when the trauma occurred overseas, to what she copes with every day. She also stopped taking medication because there were negative side effects. My heart just went out to her and I wanted to help her and others like her in that very moment.

Wen we moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, from Fort Bragg, North Carolina I felt more than compelled to film a documentary that would explore different therapies to heal veterans and others with PTSD. I started connecting with non-profits in the Kansas City area that offered complementary therapies for veterans. When I shared my vision  with the directors, they were on board right away to be part of this project.

After months of planning, my Journey began filming “The Journey Back to Normal – A Look at Complementary Therapies to Combat PTSD.”  This film sheds light on truly effective complementary therapies in which veterans are immersed, to combat the adverse effects of PTSD. The film documents how these therapies can aid in the healing process in a holistic way AND it shows how these community heroes step in and step up to help our warriors in their hour of need. It’s important to mention some VA facilities do offer complimentary therapy programs – but there is NOT enough funding.

Testimonies shared in the film are focused more on present positive experiences rather than their past trauma. It is truly a hope-filled film and it really shows how men and women exiting the military can have a second LIFE – service members have such a strong sense of identity through the military and it IS literally what defines them. When they exit the military, they not only have some issues, but some have an identity crisis as well. These therapies can really give them a 2nd life in more ways than one!

There is some reality woven into the film-the statistics I include in the film are a bit shocking, but I wanted to make sure the audience realizes the critical nature of this issue.

Our ultimate goal AND mission IS to create awareness about true healing through this film  – 

I filmed on location at 4 non- profit organizations founded by veterans and families who were connected in some way to the military and the veteran community.

The non-profit organizations are located in the Fort Leavenworth area and  in Dallastown, Pennsylvania. These outstanding non-profits are Camp Valor Outdoors, Horses and Heroes, Warriors Best Friend, and Equiteam Support Services. They provide outdoor recreation therapy, Eagala equine-assisted psychotherapy, canine therapy, and one other therapy I won’t reveal.  It is surprising to me and it may be for you too. Please contact them for more information on how to be part of their amazing programs! www.campvaloroutdoors.org, www.horsesandheroes.org, www.warriorsbestfriend.org, and www.equiteam.org

“The Journey Back to Normal – A Look at Complementary Therapies to Combat PTSD” documents how these therapies can aid in the healing process in a holistic way and it shows how these community heroes step in and step up to help our warriors in their hour of need. Testimonies that are shared by veterans are positive and do not focus so much on their PTSD and their trauma, but rather veterans speak on the effectiveness of these complementary therapies.

Many ask me why I wanted to film this documentary. My answer is this: 20 veterans a day. That is 20 veterans who commit suicide every day as well as active duty military. Over 6000 veterans committed suicide in 2018. 

I had friends who were married to soldiers with PTSD after coming home from war and I had close girl friends with PTSD who also served overseas. Their lives were broken. Some marriages ended and some lives ended because of PTSD. 

Our goal is to educate and enlighten the public and to save lives in our military and veteran communities and beyond! 

Website:  https://www.thejourneybacktonormal.com

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Nicole Amelio-Casper, Independent Filmmaker

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