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Treatment center helps soldiers adjust to post-deployment using relaxation techniques

October 11, 2012
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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The Center for Health and Well-Being (Savannah, GA) is about an hour away from the Fort Stewart Military Complex, in the flight path of the Hunter Army Airfield, and also home to a battalion of Army Rangers.  

Military personnel and their families make up at least half of the clients that are seen at the Center, says psychologist Gayle Rosantine, noting that the people on the post know that they can usually get an appointment quickly and that “soldiers know that they don’t have to worry about treatment going into their record.”

Known at the center as Dr. Gayle so as to not be confused with her husband, psychiatrist Barry Rozantine—Gayle Rozantine specializes in stress management and treatments for mood disorders, trauma, and the emotional distress associated with physical illness and chronic pain.  Barry Rozantine, M.D., provides outpatient care for patients with mood disorders and treats patients with chronic pain and substance abuse problems. The Rozantines are joined at the center by a “military spouse liaison,” Kristen Elpel, who greets clients as they come into the center. 

As a military spouse, Kristen is especially sensitive to the needs of soldiers and their family members.  Besides providing assistance and support to soldiers and their families throughout deployment and upon return, Kristen maintains contact with military spouses across the country, and also schedules and coordinates activities for Gayle at Ft. Stewart and Hunter Army Air Field.

Number of military members seeking treatment increases

When Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) was launched in March 2003, Gayle notes that the center began seeing many young women spouses and children of the men who had been deployed.  She describes the first deployments as “extremely rough on the families” because they didn’t have technologies like Skype at that point. “The families back home were not hearing anything about their loved ones,” she remembers.   

After 15-18 months, when the soldiers came back, Gayle says there was a severe increase in substance abuse, domestic violence, and divorce.  Gayle and Barry, who had trained at a VA inpatient center during the Vietnam War and saw countless instances of what is now known as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), were beginning to see the same things in another generation of soldiers. The soldiers had been through the most traumatic experiences of their lives in combat and were “shut down.”  The increase in mental health problems—and growing numbers of suicides—spoke to the soldiers’ need for help.

 “Warriors workbook” for the soldiers

To help in addressing the negative impact of repeated deployments on war fighters and their families, Gayle drafted what she calls a “Warriors Workbook” for the returning personnel. After a longtime PTSD sufferer—a Vietnam-era Navy Seal—reported that the workbook helped him “tremendously,” Gayle decided to publish the workbook for wider distribution.  

Now titled, At Ease, Solider!  How to Leave the War Downrange and Feel at Home Again, the workbook offers a combination of practical advice about ways to reduce stress, sleep better, and feel well, together with exercises that challenge individuals to consider and answer deeper concerns, such as:

·        “When I was deployed, my most dangerous experience was…”

·        “Since returning from my deployment, I have noticed these changes in my thoughts…”

·        “Do you think you have been displaying controlling behavior?  What do you think you can change to solve the problem?”

Gayle says that the workbook has been incorporated into programs designed for military personnel, notably the Patriot Support Program that is offered to providers by Universal Health Systems.  It is also being distributed to combat veterans by non-profit organizations and has been used in a course for Wounded Warriors at Fayetteville State University. 

She is now co-authoring a book to accompany AES entitled The Clinician’s Guide to At Ease, Solider!  Theory and Practice.  “It is a book for therapists already using the workbook which provides the theoretical basis for working with military personnel and a structured 12-session program to assist clinicians in their work with service members struggling with the challenges of post-deployment adjustment,” she explains.

Relaxation in therapy

From the second a client sets foot into the Center for Health and Well-Being, he or she is immediately immersed in a peaceful environment.  Motion sensitive aromatherapy is triggered each time a person walks through the front door and the sound of trickling water is noticeable.  The large foyer has high ceilings and two waterfalls, one flowing into a large koi pond and the other into a tropical fish pond.

The feeling of serenity is deliberate, says Gayle. “We didn’t want a traditional office where people don’t feel comfortable,” she says.  “We believe our offices should provide a comfortable place for people to talk about uncomfortable situations.” The feeling extends beyond the lobby, to Gayle’s waiting room, where clients will find a library.  Nature scenes are seen on a television screen, while quiet music plays through the speakers in the ceiling.