Coping with PTSD through music in Grants Pass, Oregon
The Josephine County Veterans Service Office is finding successful ways to heal the trauma of war with music.
I recently found myself walking past the doorway of the Anne G. Basker Auditorium in Grants Pass, Oregon on a Thursday afternoon; and was intrigued to hear some familiar music, coming from some less familiar voices, wafting through the windows. I stopped in to hear more, and was surprised by what I found.
The DD-214’s, as I’ve learned that they call themselves, are a group of Veterans that use music to help cope with some of the struggles of re-adjusting to civilian life. The name of the group, The DD-214’s, is derived from the form that members of the military are issued upon termination of service: Department of Defense form DD-214. That form lists your awards, time of service, theaters of combat, etc. It’s like having your entire military career on one page.
The group is run by Lisa Pickart, the Veteran Service Officer for Josephine County, in Grants Pass, Oregon. It was originally started by Pickart and Louie Goldberg, an LCSW formerly with the Veterans Administration and now in private practice, in 2011. I recently sat down to talk with Louie, and I asked her how they got started:
“Bob” is Bob Eaton. A bit of a renaissance man, Bob was an Army Sergeant in the Vietnam War, and admits that he had a difficult time re-adjusting to civilian life. Since meeting his wife, Moe (also a member of the group), he has worked and tried many different therapies to combat his PTSD, but he is open about the fact that at one point, he was driven to attempt suicide. Thankfully fate intervened, and Bob discovered the therapeutic power of music (for Bob’s inspiring story of how he has persevered watch his song and video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15l0XCdIWpk ).
While Bob was working on his recovery, he tried seemingly every type of therapy he could. From Qi Gong and meditation, to pet therapy and group therapy; but nothing seemed to work. Then he found music. I asked him how writing music helped him heal:
Bob served in the Army during the Vietnam War. He has dealt with PTSD ever since and has tried many different ways to cope with those feelings. When I asked Bob how he has been able to make such positive changes, he answered very quickly: “I do the work”.
PUTTING IN THE WORK
That work started with therapy, for Bob. The V.A. lists a number of different therapies on it’s website as treatment for PTSD. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is widely used, and the VA’s website shows that “Research shows it (CBT) is the most effective type of counseling for PTSD”. It also states that “the VA is providing two forms of cognitive behavioral therapy to Veterans with PTSD: Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) and Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy”.
The therapies listed above are meant to, in one way or another, help one find ways to cope with PTSD and it’s far reaching effects. Although the VA lists various modes of therapy, The DD 214’s are not a therapy group. They would be more akin to one of those coping mechanisms that they teach in some therapy groups. The DD-214’s don’t have long, drawn out discussions about the horrors of war. Rather, The DD-214’s are a Veteran Music Outreach Project. It’s a place where Veterans can talk, and listen, to people speaking in a language they understand. Bob, for his part, thinks it’s as simple as being understood:
We have all heard the horrible statistic: 22 United States Veterans commit suicide every day. Lisa Pickart, the Veteran Service Officer (and leader of The DD-214’s) sees the combination of recreational music and structure working. As she told me, “The essence of a musical composition speaks to us on a cellular level, deepening the human experience in the moment. This key connection is the foundation to the platform of remedial growth through music. It mends and develops ones spirit.”
I think it can be broken down simpler than that: people are being heard and understood. Isn’t that what we are all looking for?
You can find more information on The DD-214’s on Facebook at:
For more photos of the band, please visit: