Soldiers and Veterans

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TRE Scotland are working with Veterans here in Edinburgh and are to begin a new project with North Staffs Veterans support group.

Keith McKenzie gives his personal and professional feedback on our pilot TRE project where Vicki held a TRE group before Keith’s mindfulness class for 6 weeks.

“27th January 2015 – Settling the Restless Mind – Veteran Group

Keith McKenzie – you can contact Keith on

When I read on Facebook about Trauma Release Exercise it had the immediate effect of familiarity, as if I had done it before. I did a bit of research and eventually tracked down Vicki Cook in Edinburgh who put me through an introduction to TRE. It had the effect I had imagined, of connecting my body and mind to the subtlest of levels and I knew that it was right for me and guessed it would be right for the group of veterans I was about to teach mindfulness. Settling their bodies before settling their minds seemed to me a natural progression in settling a restless mind and body. Vicki agreed to come along on week two of the ten-week course and introduce the veterans to TRE.

When I explained TRE to the group of veterans, all of who suffered with trauma of one kind or another, they were a little skeptical, not just with the concept of TRE but also with Vicki being a civilian. They were used to veterans and veteran groups and typically found it difficult to engage out with that scenario.

When Vicki sat down to talk about TRE the atmosphere was thick with suspicion and anger. The first thing Vicki did was to share this with the group. She said I am a little intimidated by you and a little frightened. She then detailed her background history, and with both parents being military, this and her openness with sharing her history settled the group.

It took the group only one session to realize that TRE was going to be of benefit to them. After this they looked forward to the sessions, to the point when one week when the course venue was double booked and I had to cancel the TRE, they became very vocal in their disappointment and condemnation of the Serenity Café for the mix up.

The main benefit of their TRE sessions was better quality sleep, something that in general, which is affected with life in general if you are not in touch with body and mind but certainly can be a problem for someone suffering from post-trauma. I would say this and a general lift of spirit, which was noticeable with-in the group.

In my opinion TRE and mindfulness coaching go very well together, with TRE being done before mindfulness, which settles the body as well as the mind, giving a grounded base for the teaching of mindfulness.

I would recommend TRE for any mindfulness based teachings and will be pursuing this with Vicki Cook for any future courses.”

David Berceli and Military personnel after a TRE session.

PTSD is a common pattern seen in soldiers returning from deployment who only begin to experience hyperarousal symptoms of anxiety and irritability many weeks, months or even years after their return as their nervous system begins to down-regulate from frozen or contained states that were activated and necessary to cope with military situations.

This amazing photographic study shows how soldiers are affected by their experiences of war even if they don’t realise.  We can see it in their faces.

The initial ‘shut down’ or ‘freeze’ is also why husbands and wives of returned servicemen and women often experience a distinct ‘change’ in their partner upon their return home even if they are not yet displaying the traditional ‘arousal’ based symptoms of PTSD as their nervous system continues to operate in the survival mode required while on deployment.

Here a soldier talks about his experience using TRE to recover.  And another video shows David Berceli using TRE with Colombian soldiers.

As these defensive states are created and perpetuated from deeper in the brain than our conscious mind, all too often, treatments that only focus upon cognitive approaches and talking to resolve PTSD do not provide an alternative avenue for the body itself to physiologically discharge these unexpressed fight and flight states to help down-regulate the nervous system to a more calm and relaxed state.

Consider a solider whose body is primed to tremor and shake in order to discharge any unresolved fight or flight energy  that without this understanding of the benefits of this natural process is likely to suppress it and contain it in order to not look scared or overwhelmed – effectively escalating their nervous system into even more traumatic states of freeze and shutdown rather than allowing the discharge of the arousal states through tremoring and shaking if it wasn’t able to be discharged through fighting or fleeing.

group military lying
Resting in tremoring session

One of the primary ways the body naturally dissipates these fight and flight responses is through involuntary tremoring and shaking, just as we see in the animal kingdom after a zebra or gazelle tremors at the water hole after surviving a lion attack, and just as humans also experience whenever we are overwhelmed or overexcited such as during traumatic events such as car accidents and natural disasters or even in situations where we are nervous such as public speaking.

Rather than allowing the tremors to discharge this defensive energy, we tend to suppress them through a lack of understanding and fear of appearing scared or nervous which effectively escalates the build up of the obvious fight and flight arousal responses to the even more internally charged ’freeze’ state that leaves us appearing calm and relaxed on the outside (even to ourselves)  while internally our nervous system is still running to it’s absolute maximum.

Group miliary wall
Activation exercises for TRE

When we understand this pattern of coming back down out of freeze states requires us to move through the arousal states of fight and flight that precipitated it, it makes sense that rather than trying to stop or inhibit these arousal states we use TRE to enable the body to naturally discharge this defensive energy in a controlled and safe way to down-regulate the nervous system towards homeostasis and assist the benefits of other cognitive based approaches.

David Berceli talks about how and why TRE works for soldiers – first videosecond video.

David has now trained US veterans to be Certified TRE Providers and go out and help other veterans recover using TRE.  And one of the leading ones is the veteran Adam McCabe, he teaches TRE in the non-profit organization called Huts for Vets.  Here is a great video of the organization which includes a nice explanation of why vets benefit from TRE.

And Anthony McEntee also shows us in this video how TRE has helped him help himself – allowing his to regulate his emotions.

Edited version of the original with permission from Richmond Heath –