Retreat offers holistic care for service members
Soldiers, veterans and spouses affected by post traumatic stress disorder gather in Angel Fire, N.M., for a free, holistic care retreat. Yoga, massage and equine therapy are just some of the alternative treatments given to couples during the seven-day

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Your body remembers trauma ... for Soldiers returning from war, this can be the most frustrating part of the job. Some Soldiers believe that silence is a form of forgetting, but their attempts to move forward may stall personal and professional progress.

Thanks to the National Veterans Wellness and Healing Center, Soldiers are learning that sometimes the greatest sign of strength is a simple request for help.

NVWHC now offers seven-day retreats to servicemembers and veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. The alternative wellness retreats are free for these military members and spouses (or caregivers), and welcome veterans of war - from World War II to Operation Enduring Freedom.

Retreats feature various complementary and alterative forms of medicine, and provide therapies that are virtually untapped in the traditional military healthcare system.

The techniques include approaches like acupuncture, which place thin needles in pressure points that correspond to body pain. While doctors like Col. Richard Niemtzow (ret. Air Force), made strides in battlefield acupuncture, much of alternative healthcare has traditionally hit a glass ceiling. Wellness retreats, like the free one offered by NVWHC, are changing that trend. Both the state of New Mexico and the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services have partnered with NVWHC, and more military installations are joining forces with the PTSD retreats.

In addition to acupuncture, the retreats provide yoga, emotional freedom technique, Reiki, guided imagery, couples and group counseling, equine therapy and massage. The quiet, natural setting is often just the thing that survivors need to begin to heal.

Karen Kelly, secretary/treasurer for NVWHC, said that interpersonal communication is often strained as the result of PTSD. "Once we open those lines of communication, it really opens up the ability for spouses to say, 'That's happening in my marriage too.' There's (also) a lot of guilt that's released from the veterans as far as what they went through," Kelly said.

Soldiers and their spouses arrive in Angel Fire, N.M. on a Saturday, prepared for 58 hours of counseling and personal empowerment training throughout the week. Traditional counselors and alternative practitioners, including a Native American healer, work with couples to improve their marriages and life skills.

NVWHC's program director, Candace Green, is an emotional freedom technique practitioner. She explained that some Soldiers live with the pain of PTSD for decades before turning to alternative care. Green teaches attendees to safely uncover body memories and interrupt the rhythm of PTSD using techniques like guided imagery and acupressure points. Green likes to describe the therapy model as "challenge by choice."

She often asks Soldiers, "What does the structure of your PTSD look like' Is it fight, is it flight, is it freeze ... and how do you manage to be on top of it so it's not running you'" Green asked.
Kelly agreed. "I got a call from one of the gals that went through (previously), and she said that it basically saved her marriage. They don't come back the same people that they left."

Retreats for 2011 continue through September. For information on these free Angel Fire Wellness Retreats, contact Karen Kelly at (575) 377-6555 or visit

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16