Talk therapy improves PTSD, says Walter Reed National Military Medical Center chief

Cmdr. Russell B. Carr, M.D., acting chief of the psychiatry department at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, stated that almost everyone seen at Walter Reed and in clinics throughout the Department of Defense is suicidal. He also estimates that the best PTSD treatments in use today do not work for 30 to 40 percent of patients. Cmdr. Carr runs the adult outpatient mental health clinic at Walter Reed and his statements were part of his testimony given during the House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Military Personnel hearing on mental health research on April 10.

Cmdr. Carr stated that although some treatments, such as medication, manage symptoms, it is talk therapy that is most successful in improving PTSD. Cmdr. Carr recommended that talk therapies specifically tailored to combat-related PTSD be developed.

It is the therapeutic relationship between clinician and patient that is the hallmark of talk therapy. This relationship allows the person coming for treatment to feel safe and understood - even while relating experiences that may be too horrific to verbalize anywhere else. Talking helps those in treatment make sense of their experiences and eventually live with them.

Cmdr. Carr's training as a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, and his deployment in Iraq, where he experienced the trauma of war firsthand, makes his expert testimony particularly compelling. As he stated to the members of the subcommittee, "I understand why some combat veterans feel they deserve to die, why they feel more at ease sleeping under a bridge than rejoining the communities they fought to defend, but I also understand why we must fight every day to help them."


American Psychoanalytic Association

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