VA Palo Alto Health Care System
Men's Trauma Recovery Program (MTRP)
Fitness and Wellness
Fitness and Wellness are a vital part of MTRP programming. Offerings include:
Paws for Purple Hearts
"Paws for Purple Hearts" is a nonprofit that pioneered a truly innovative canine therapy for Veterans suffering from PTSD or TBI. Veterans participating in this ground-breaking program help train service dogs for their fellow Veterans with physical injuries and/or PTSD or TBI, gaining a therapeutic benefit in the process.
Many VAPAHCS residents participate in this program as part of their rehabilitation. The process of training and nurturing the young dogs in a structured environment complements other types of VA treatment and therapy and aligns fully with the mission of the VA.
The strong bond formed between each Veteran and the dogs they work with in the therapy program has facilitated real emotional healing. Numerous participant testimonials attest to how lives have been markedly improved as a result of interaction with Paws for Purple Hearts puppies and dogs.
Read a related article in Smithsonian.com:
How Dogs Can Help Veterans Overcome PTSD
Cycling to Recovery
TRP focuses on a holistic bio-psycho-social approach to recovery from PTSD. One of the ways the program supports this is through bicycling to help build more avenues to address symptoms of PTSD, such as isolation, depression, avoidance, anxiety, and building relationships with others.
Veterans who have participated in cycling programs have decreased their symptoms of PTSD as well as discovered a path to reconnect with their community when they discharge. TRP leads organized cycling activities and occasional weekend group rides, logging thousands of miles.
Stretching and Core group is a therapeutic intervention designed to assist residents who are interested in incorporating exercise goals into their treatment. Using a Behavioral Activation framework one goal of this group is to increase physical activity while also looking at exercise as a way to reduce anxiety and social isolation. The residents come to group at various levels of fitness and are encouraged to use the group as a way to learn to work together toward a shared goal, develop new relationships, try new activities outside of their comfort level, increase their fitness level, and have fun. Another important aspect of this group is strengthening residents' self-esteem by having them set goals and challenge themselves. All residents agree to collaborate with staff and peers, and follow the group expectations for safety.
Therapeutic art directives and materials are provided to group members which directly engage their goals for treatment. Group members create their own projects according to the directive and with the media offered and include their values, goals, thoughts, and emotions. They are offered a time to share their projects and discuss the outcome which assists to integrate learning and facilitate expression.
A series of seven wellness classes is provided to all Men’s Trauma Recovery participants. PowerPoint slides, handouts, and discussion are used to educate about disease, prevention and treatment, with an emphasis on prevention. Subjects covered include Smoking Cessation, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, Hepatitis-C, Cardio-vascular Disease, High Cholesterol, Pain Management, Healthy Diet, Weight Management, Cancer, and Metabolic Syndrome. Our Walking Program provides pedometers to residents to encourage increased activity.