Mindfulness-based Decompression Camps for Warriors
Many cultures recognize that when we send our young men and women to war they return to us forever changed by the experience. Rituals are often used to assist them in the transition from battlefield to community. This is what welcoming a warrior home is about.
Our program is designed to embrace our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, reservists and guardsmen, without further wounding them. We know that the way in which a trauma survivor is responded to and cared for in the aftermath of the trauma is, at times, more significant to their healing than the original event or events. Trauma rarely happens in isolation. With combat soldiers in particular, trauma happens in the context of a highly disciplined, cohesive, interdependent group. For this reason, healing needs to involve the acceptance of a group, not only of fellow soldiers, but also of civilians who are able to listen without judgment, bear witness, and ultimately shoulder some of the guilt and blame so that the warrior does not need to carry it alone.
The mission of Warrior Camp is to create an environment in which the trauma of war can be addressed. The camps are week-long retreats located in serene and secluded locations that foster the development of a close-knit community within which healing can occur. They include a healthy balance of trauma therapy, relaxation and leisure activities.
Warrior Camp® Video
Warrior Camps run for 7 days, not including a travel day on either end. All participants are screened by a clinician prior to camp to assess readiness for both group and individual treatment. Full participation in group activities is encouraged as it fosters connection, community and support. Group activities consist of modified debriefings or meetings, team building activities (there are lots of these to choose from), equine assisted psychotherapy, yoga, and hikes or other sports.
Participation in individual treatment, while strongly recommended, is always on a voluntary basis. Treatments offered are EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), Yoga, and Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP). While it is our experience that warriors tend to try out all activities that are offered, involvement in group and/or individual treatment and activities is always a choice.
The clinical team consists of several EMDR clinicians, an equine psychotherapy team made up of two people (plus horses), and a yoga instructor.
On either end of the camp (day one and the last day) there is attention to introductions and then to saying goodbye. Warriors are given referrals for continued treatment by clinicians in their home cities, if needed.
While this schedule might seem tight it is our experience that starting with a well thought-out structure and then bending it as appropriate creates safety and willingness to engage in the process.
The Pilot camp was held in 2013 at a horse farm in New Hampshire. Two additional WCs have been held and four more are scheduled throughout the end of 2014.
Evaluation of the interventions used at the first three Warrior Camp programs is being conducted by Weill Cornell Medical College Department of Public Health.
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