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Yoga, equine therapy help Cincinnati veterans find peace

Posted at 8:23 PM, Dec 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-12 20:59:38-05

CINCINNATI -- Appointments with Veterans Affairs counselors and therapy groups made Jason Short feel "like a test subject," he told WCPO in 2016. Talking through the experiences that led to his diagnosis with post-traumatic stress disorder didn't help him move past them. 

Training wild horses did. 

Equine therapy programs, which received $1 million in Department of Veterans Affairs funding in 2018, number among a handful of alternative therapeutic practices supported by the VA.

"There is no one-size-fits-all," said Dr. Kate Chard, chief of research for the Cincinnati VA's PTSD treatment program. "What I really push is, offer a lot of things so that each veteran can find the thing that will work for them."

The thing that works for Dan Hutzinger, who spent the mid-1970s in a United States Army artillery unit, is practicing and teaching yoga to other veterans. Like many other practitioners, Hutzinger said it brings him both physical and mental benefits.

"Using mindfulness and breathing can really help them," he said. "I see the benefits in myself, and I see the benefits in my students."

None of these is an effective replacement for psychotherapy, Chard added. However, they can be vital supplements. 

"Unfortunately, what we found is that none of them treat PTSD," she said. "None of them will sustain. Does that mean we throw them away? Absolutely not. The key thing we have to remember is we all have to have meaning."

If yoga, horseback riding or another non-medical practice helps a veteran find that, she's all for it.