A Trauma Healing Retreat for Military Veterans
October 10th - 15th, 2019
About Returning Home
Returning Home is the first Somatic Experiencing® (SE™) trauma healing retreat for veterans presented by Dr. Peter A. Levine's Community Health SE™ program. This retreat will demonstrate the value of the Somatic Experiencing® model in addressing military service related trauma and PTSD. The retreat will include a community outreach program to provide post-retreat support for each veteran and a research component to ensure the effectiveness of future SE™ intensive trauma healing retreats for veterans and military service members. Returning Home launches Dr. Levine's vision for ongoing programs that support those who have given service to our country and who suffer from PTSD.
Is a six-day Somatic Experiencing® trauma healing retreat for 30 veterans displaying PTSD symptoms. Returning Home is free to all participants, including lodging, food, program services, and a travel stipend.
The retreat curriculum has been specially designed to integrate the Somatic Experiencing® trauma healing model with Equine therapy and other wellness practices that unify the body, heart, and mind.
Each veteran will develop skills to decrease trauma-related symptoms while managing physical discomfort. An eight-week online SE™ support group will be offered post-retreat to further assist each veteran with practice and integration of SE™ 'tools' and techniques learned during the retreat.
Dates and Location
October 10th - October 15th, 2019
Thursday thru Tuesday
Returning Home will take place at Fair Haven Camps in Brooks, Maine. Fair Haven Camps, founded in 1950, is located on a beautiful lake. Surrounded by over 300 acres of pristine pasture and woods, this rustic setting is ideal as a safe, nurturing place for the retreat.
Fair Haven is complete with a camp lodge, chapel, campfire site, hiking trails, horse stables, kayaks, canoes, game room, and indoor basketball court. All meals will be home cooked.
Why is Returning Home Important?
According to recent data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the number of suicides among military veterans is 20 per day - nearly one suicide every hour.
There is an acute need for programs like Returning Home. There are now more casualties attributable to suicide than to combat among the military’s active-duty population. Many of those who take their lives have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The demand to address the needs of military veterans with PTSD is so high that last year, the VA Mission Act became law. It directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand access to VA-funded care in the private sector.
This year's Returning Home retreat and future Community Health SE™ programs will increase access to effective trauma-informed stress reduction techniques and resiliency building practices for men and women dealing with PTSD as a result of their military service.
Returning Home Curriculum
Is an intensive short-term Somatic Experiencing® protocol designed to address the life-altering and debilitating symptoms of PTSD, shock trauma and related stress conditions due to combat and military service.
In order for our vets to experience consistent stress reduction strategies and resiliency building techniques from a Somatic Experiencing® perspective, we’ve developed a ‘toolbox’ of simple and repeatable SE™ interventions. These interventions address basic SE™ concepts of grounding, presence, resourcing, and sensing that will be used with all aspects of the retreat program including individual SE™ sessions, equine therapy, yoga, walking meditation, boating, and during meals.
The daily schedule will also include leisure activities such as hiking, canoeing, enjoying home cooked meals and evening conversation around the campfire.
Individual SE™ Sessions
SE™ offers a framework to assess where a person is “stuck” in the fight, flight or freeze responses and resolve these fixated physiological states. SE™ helps to release traumatic shock and resolve heightened physical and emotional symptoms by restoring the natural rhythm of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), which is key to transforming PTSD and the trauma symptoms of hyperarousal (anxiety), shutdown (depression), and other chronic symptoms associated with nervous system dysregulation.
Veterans will have a one hour daily private SE™ session with a qualified Somatic Experiencing® Practitioner. Individual SE™ sessions will be tailored to the specific needs of each participant.
Research shows that being around horses can be calming to the human nervous system, helping to decrease the symptoms of trauma and stress in our bodies, while contributing to a greater sense of overall well-being. Pairing Somatic Experiencing® basics with Equine-assisted learning allows for new lived experiences in the here-and-now of grounding, presence, resourcing, and sensing.
Each veteran will attend daily group Equine-assisted learning sessions and will experience one-on-one time with the horses.
Kaiut Yoga Therapy
Each day will begin with a guided yoga practice at sunrise overlooking the lake. This class is designed for people who have no yoga experience and who suffer from chronic pain, limited motion, and decreased flexibility.
The Kaiut Yoga method works with the body in the way that the body was designed by nature to move. This is an inclusive method, using simple shapes to create a format of yoga accessible to all practitioners regardless of flexibility, strength, age, or experience. Kaiut aims to deliver consistent long-term healing results as opposed to creating aesthetic shapes. It has been designed to work through trauma, chronic pain, physical injury, general aches and stiffness, inflexibility, hyper-flexibility, and is ideal for the aging body.
Shinrin-Yoku - Forest Meditation
Daily silent walks in the Maine woods will be offered with guided instruction to awaken and track sensory experience as a practice to decrease stress and tension. Group discussion after the walk will help participants learn from and teach each other as we discuss what we experienced together.
"Shinrin-Yoku, translated into English as ‘forest bathing', means taking in the forest atmosphere during a leisurely walk. It is a therapy that was developed in Japan during the 1980s, becoming a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine.
Researchers, primarily in Japan and South Korea, have conducted studies on the health benefits of spending time amongst the trees, demonstrating that forest bathing positively creates calming neuro-psychological effects through changes in the nervous system, reducing the stress hormone cortisol and boosting the immune system" (growwilduk.com/blog).
Group Therapy - Psychoeducation
This part of the retreat curriculum will focus on the responses we have under typical and overwhelming experiences from a Somatic Experiencing® perspective. This will include the basics of SE™ theory such as trauma being lodged in the body and nervous system, how responses and subsequent behaviors such as PTSD, anger, depression, and relationship patterns are changeable, and how to increase the window of tolerance for relaxation and activation. The basic principles and concepts of Somatic Experiencing® that will be utilized all week will be introduced and presented didactically and experientially.
Each night veterans can gather around the campfire for conversation, storytelling, and general discussion. The opportunity to process the day's events and to discuss the spiritual dimension of war-related injury will be an integral part of the evening.
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