(Photo:Flickr/US Army Africa)

Recently, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has come under intense scrutiny from Congress (as well as the American Counseling Association) for failing to institute steps that would improve mental health access for veterans. One such step would be to hire counselors as mental health clinicians within veterans hospitals, facilities and Vet Centers. As criticism continues to mount, the VA has announced it is testing whether to use transcendental meditation to help treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in soldiers returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

As The Washington Post reports, the VA plans to spend approximately $5 million on a dozen clinical trials and demonstration studies focused on three meditation techniques involving several hundred veterans from various conflicts. Results from the studies should be available in 12 to 18 months.

“The reality is, not all individuals we see are treatable by the techniques we use,” said W. Scott Gould, deputy secretary of the VA, at the Operation Warrior Wellness summit last week.

According to the David Lynch Foundation, the summit’s sponsor, two independent pilot studies using Iraq and Afghanistan veterans showed a 50 percent reduction in PTSD symptoms after eight weeks of transcendental meditation.

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For updates on ACA’s work to get counselors hired by the VA, read the latest “Washington Update” article, “Pressure increases on VA to improve mental health treatment,” from the upcoming June issue of Counseling Today.

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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