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War Narratives: Veteran Stories, PTSD Effects, and Therapeutic Fly-Fishing

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Working within a framework of narratology (narrative theory), this study is a gathering and analysis of 67 letters of veterans as they concluded their participation in a therapeutic fly-fishing program in Dutch John, UT along the Green River. The program worked with female and male veterans with confirmed diagnoses of posttraumatic stress disorder that served overseas in each branch of the Armed Forces (except the Coast Guard) during Operation New Dawn, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Desert Shield, and Vietnam. The collected narratives were analyzed based on a three-part process of reading: Explication; Explanation; and, Exploration. This analysis approach presented a uniquely constructed perspective of veterans as they participated in treatment. The study systematically analyzed the stories to present a narrative and four themes that would inform and guide future empirical studies on the realities of veterans, program experiences, and perspective on treatment.
... Recreation activities and experiences such as naturebased or outdoor pursuits, sports, fitness, cultural arts, music, mind-body activities (i.e., yoga, meditation), and social activities, among others, are recognized for their therapeutic benefits and potential for instilling personal agency, and facilitating coping and healing among a variety of populations with disabilities, including those with behavioral health conditions (Benedek & Wynn, 2016;Iwasaki et al., 2005;Kearney et al., 2012;Kleiber et al., 2002Kleiber et al., , 2008Walsh, 2011). Recreational therapy interventions have shown promise in improving symptom management, strengthening social relationships, supporting physical health, and enhancing community reintegration among Veteran and military populations (Bennett et al., 2014;Craig et al., 2020;Lundberg, Bennett, et al., 2011;Lundberg, Taniguchi, et al., 2011;Mowatt & Bennett, 2011;Thompson et al., 2016;Vella et al., 2013;Wheeler et al., 2020). Further, there is a growing evidence-base for the efficacy of RT interventions in facilitating functional outcomes, coping, and posttraumatic growth for Veteran and military populations with PTSD and comorbid behavioral health conditions (Bennett et al., 2017;Duvall & Kaplan, 2013;Hawkins et al., 2016;Price et al., 2015;Rogers et al., 2016). ...
... Results from this study suggest that Northeast Passage's C-BRT™ program may be able to reduce these negative impacts and increase QOL, participation in the community and happiness among this population. This aligns with previous research examining the outcomes of community-based recreational therapy programs for Veterans with various disabilities (Bennett et al., 2014;Craig et al., 2020;Lundberg, Bennett, et al., 2011;Lundberg, Taniguchi, et al., 2011;Mowatt & Bennett, 2011;Thompson et al., 2016;Vella et al., 2013;Wheeler et al., 2020). ...
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Identifying evidenced-based interventions that improve health outcomes for Veterans with behavioral health disorders is a national priority. Thus, this study examined the outcomes of a community-based recreational therapy (RT) program focused on health promotion for Veterans with behavioral health disorders. Fifty-five Veterans with disabilities completed pretest and posttest questionnaires that assessed Quality of Life (QOL), Participation, and Happiness. Significant improvements were found in Overall QOL, Environmental QOL, Psychological QOL, QOL Rated, Satisfaction with Health, Participation, and Happiness. Younger age and female gender were significantly associated with improved Overall QOL. Factors significantly associated with improved Environmental QOL included younger age and non-Caucasian race. Older age was significantly associated with improved Participation. Female gender was positively associated with improved Happiness, while being divorced/separated was negatively associated with Happiness. These results have important implications for the use and expansion of community-based RT health promotion programs for Veterans with behavioral health disorders.
... Schachter (1959) furthered this work through the discovery that motivation for social comparison is heightened during times of uncertainty. Social comparisons in illness were then found to be highly important and therapeutic for those with disabilities, illnesses, or life stressors (Dibb & Yardley, 2006;Huebner & Mancini, 2005;Mowatt & Bennett, 2011). For instance, upward positive comparisons can provide hope and inspiration for those seeking to have similar attitudes and outcomes. ...
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Oncology support group leaders may benefit from the narratives of their patients coupled with the use of theory. In the case of this analytic auto-ethnography, professionals will gain insights into the process and value of post-traumatic growth as well as the usefulness of opportunities to socially compare with peer oncology patients. The following is an auto-ethnographical account of the first author’s personal journey with cancer through the review of a journal kept during and after treatment. This approach allowed for both depth and breadth of understanding from a personal experience with illness coupled with the application and understanding of theory applied to that personal journey. Two major themes emerged centered on the value of social comparison opportunities with others that are experiencing cancer as well as the evolution of emotions leading to post traumatic growth. Implications for practice center on developing therapeutic recreation-based oncology support programs using the theoretical lenses of post traumatic growth as well as social comparisons in illness.
... For example, fly fishing has been found to promote camaraderie, reflection, and coping with regret, as well as improvements in attentiveness, mood, depression, anxiety, and stress. 26,27 Outcomes from adventure or challenge-based programs have shown increases in coping skills and self-efficacy, especially when programing was coupled with the emotional support from fellow service members. [28][29][30][31][32] Additionally, the controlled practice of deep-breathing and meditation in yoga has contributed to a reduction in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. ...
Article
Equine-assisted therapy is being increasingly used as a therapeutic modality for veterans who have been injured during military service; however, little research has examined the quality of equine programs, especially from a veteran’s perspective. In this study, an Importance-Performance Analysis (IPA) was used to provide direct, applicable feedback of program quality and relevancy to a military-specific equine-assisted therapy program. Veteran participants in the program informed the IPA tool used to assess the importance and performance of various program factors. Results provided insight into the quality of the equine-assisted therapy program factors, shedding light on those specifically being sought by veterans. Some of the key program factors included the horse being central to the program, the program catering to veteran needs, and sessions being held in a relaxed setting. Full results may be considered for other veteran-serving equine-assisted therapy programs.
... Being part of a team was perceived as increasing veterans' sense of belonging, selfesteem, social and communication skills. Similar studies also highlighted the importance of team spirit in group alternative activities, especially when social support took the form of camaraderie with fellow veterans [47,48] and developed on the basis of their shared experiences [39]. Having a "shared" physical injury or disability helped veterans to connect with and inspire each other [39]. ...
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Purpose: Physically or psychologically injured military veterans are motivated and benefited by physical activity or sport that may involve high levels of achievement. The aim of this study was to provide an in-depth insight into the impact of Competitive Motorsport (CM) on physically injured/disabled veterans' subjective well-being and in turn determine if it improves the quality of their lives. Methods: This is a qualitative study. Two sets of semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 male British military veterans including a 6-month follow-up. All participants were subjected to a permanent, moderate or severe, physical injury/disability. Data were analysed in accordance with the principles of Thematic Analysis. Results/conclusions: Five key elements (familiar environment, team spirit, adrenaline rush, competition and equality) made CM a unique experience for physically injured/disabled veterans. Various psychological and physical benefits were found, including an increased sense of accomplishment, opportunity to socialise in a non-clinical environment, embracement of body image and adoption of a healthier lifestyle. Since physical activity and sport are among growing research on alternative interventions for military veterans, they deserve serious consideration as part of the treatment regimens and rehabilitation programmes to improve physically inured/disabled veterans' physical and mental health.Implications for RehabilitationCompetitive Motorsport is an effective means of improving physical health and subjective well-being of physically injured/disabled military veterans.Multiple perceived psychological and physical benefits were identified over time, including motivation for living, embracement of body image and adoption of a healthier lifestyle.Competitive Motorsport deserves consideration as part of the treatment regimens and rehabilitation programmes to improve physically injured/disabled veterans' physical and mental health while facilitating transition to civilian life.
... In addition, various studies have been conducted on military recrea-S INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SPORT MANAGEMENT tion and its impact across bases worldwide including opportunities for outdoor recreation, fitness, military sports, outdoor excursions and clinical therapeutic recreation. Most of this research attests to the advantages of such alternative sources of treatment (Caddick & Smith, 2014;Hawkins et al., 2016;Hunt et al., 2014;Lundberg et al., 2016;Miller et al., 2014;Mowatt & Bennett, 2011;Rogers et al. 2016;Taff et al., 2016). This relatively recent approach to supporting military members is tempered by the fact that communities, including military communities across North America, are witnessing a decline in community services participation (e.g., recreation, sport). ...
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Sense of community is believed to be greater when individuals are actively engaged in their communities. Attaining a sense of community for individuals working in the Canadian military can be challenging for a number of reasons including the high percentage of personnel who live off base, frequent moves, and continual deployments. Complicating these living conditions are concerns around alarming rates of increased mental health issues which encompass depression, suicidal thoughts, and traumatic brain injuries. Participating in recreation and sport activities can provide opportunities for engagement, thereby fostering a sense of community. However, scholars have noted that communities, including military communities across North America, are seeing a decline in community services participation (e.g., recreation, sport) which negatively impacts sense of community. The purpose of this research was to study the relationship between participation in recreational opportunities and sense of community in a Canadian military setting. Questionnaires were administered at a Canadian Armed Forces Base. Results indicated that three sense of community factors: voluntary action, common interest, and administrative consideration, predicted recreation participation among Canadian Armed Forces members. The results create a unique discussion for scholars and military personnel regarding the relationship among each of these factors, as these factors are all related to personal and group cohesion. Future research should explore sense of community in other military settings to further understand the role of recreation and sense of community. (133-150)
... Our method of having the veterans write their thoughts rather than reporting them verbally may have lessened the stress associated with providing feedback, minimized expectation stress, and provided more honest responses. Similar written narrative responses have been successful in other qualitative studies of veterans (Mowatt, 2011;Palmer et al., 2017). ...
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Posttraumatic stress disorder commonly occurs among U.S. military veterans. Therapeutic horseback riding (THR) has emerged as an adjunct therapy. We explored 20 veterans’ perceived benefits, drawbacks and views of a 6-week THR program. Participants had confirmed diagnoses of posttraumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, or both. Veterans rode the same horse weekly, the same day, at the same time. Data were collected as part of a randomized clinical trial testing the effects of THR on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Veterans responded to an open-ended questionnaire. Content analysis was used for data analysis. Benefits were “Connection to the Horse,” “Relaxing,” “180 Degree Change,” and “Meeting New People.” Drawbacks were “None,” “Struggle to Get There,” “Pain,” “Too Short,” and “It is Structured.” Overall perceptions were “I Absolutely Loved It,” “Feel Again,” “The Horse,” “The People,” and “No Worries.” Participants viewed THR as positive. Findings may elucidate why THR may be clinically beneficial.
... Despite the availability of recreational and adaptive sports programs, scant outcome data exist for such programs. In qualitative studies, participants have reported that these programs improve lives by normalizing their disability/condition; facilitating friendships and social connection; providing an opportunity for new interests, competition, and efficacy; and improving health and wellbeing (Caddick et al., 2015;Dustin et al., 2011;Hawkins et al., 2011;Mowatt & Bennett, 2011;Sporner et al., 2009). Although these findings are both important and promising, data were not collected longitudinally and did not include quantitative mood, symptom, or functioning measures. ...
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Introduction Recreational and adaptive sports programs are often provided to veterans with a variety of psychological and physical conditions; however, limited data exist regarding the outcomes of these programs. The current study evaluated the psychological outcomes of attendees of the 2017 and 2018 National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic (NVSSC) in San Diego, California. Method Seventy-four veteran participants completed self-report assessments before and after the week-long program, as well as 3 months following program completion. In addition, participants completed brief assessments before and after each of the daily recreational activities (cycling, surfing, sailing, kayaking, and archery/pickleball). Results Findings showed that depression, anxiety, social functioning, and positive and negative affect significantly improved from pre-to postprogram, but returned to baseline levels at 3-month follow-up. Within sessions, depression/anxiety and positive affect significantly improved each day, with no differences in the amount of change across days. Depression/anxiety and positive affect also significantly improved within each activity, regardless of order, with no differences in the magnitude of change across activities. Conclusions The NVSSC produced significant changes in psychological outcomes among veteran participants within immediate and short-term time periods; however, gains were not maintained longer-term. Follow-on engagement in exercise activities is likely necessary for continued benefit; future research, including studies with control groups, would provide greater clarity.
... Qualitative studies often lack objective measures and an experimental research design but are often used because they produce rich data, which helps researchers understand the subjective experiences of the participants that are often overlooked in quantitative research studies. In one study (Mowatt & Bennett, 2011), 67 veterans with PTSD attended a Rivers of Recovery fly fishing camp. Participants were encouraged to write letters about their experience. ...
... More specifically, a systematic review of 11 studies relating to the use of physical activity and sport in supporting combat veterans, showed the value and the multiple positive effects of sport and physical activity in veterans' motivation and psychosocial health following disability and/or psychological trauma in combat (Caddick & Smith, 2014). These studies suggested that competitive, rule-bound and structured activities can help veterans with their transition to civilian life (Mowatt & Bennett, 2011). Active coping and the ability to do something important again enhanced veterans' subjective well-being. ...
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Due to the marginalizing effects of mental illness, the stories of individuals in early recovery from various mental health diagnoses are often invalidated. To address this concern, complementary modalities (e.g., massage therapy, naturopathy, arts-based therapy, horticulture therapy) have emerged alongside the fields of therapeutic recreation, psychotherapy, and outdoor-based practices. Less is known about how social/community approaches to practice are used within in-patient care settings to complement more traditional modalities (i.e., cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), talk-based therapy, trauma exposure therapy, pharmaceutical medication etc.). The current research project aimed to understand individuals’ experiences and reflections of engaging in an outdoor experiential workshop while seeking in-patient care for post-traumatic stress disorder and substance-use disorder. Narrative inquiry was the methodological approach we used to illuminate the voice in the cracks (Jackson & Mazzei, 2005), voices that are often left out of dominant medical discourses, to be heard. Focus groups and in-depth semi-structured narrative life-experience interviews were used to story individuals’ reflections of early recovery while participating in an outdoor experiential workshop beyond the conventional boundaries and structures of medicine-focused in-patient care.
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