Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Here's the best book I've read on PTSD: Fields of Combat by Erin Finley

If you have a personal reason – or are a care giver, clergy or lay, no, an American with a sense of “ought” – here is a book for you. Since this blog is being read by a variety of persons in a variety of other countries, I hope you will read, too - just skip the last sections on the Veterans Administration, but do find the sophisticated discussion of the psychotherapies being used. I join Finley in rolling my eyes at eye desensitation, by the way.

The book is Fields of Combat, Understanding PTSD Among Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, published by the Cornell University Press, 2011. The author is Erin Finley, a medical anthropologist. Please read beyond her work assignments: Investigator at the Veterans Evidence-Based Research Dissemination and Implementation Center, San Antonio, Texas; Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Division of Clinical Epidemiology, Department of Medicine, at the University of Texas Health Science  Center, San Antonio.

Having copied that out, I hold up my hand and swear that the woman writes very clearly and understandably. For instance:

One of my concerns about veterans coming back is how they will make it in college. Finley has 60 composite stories to illustrate her points, one of which is about “Derek” whose flashbacks did not stop when he started classes. Our interest is even personal. Our daughter-in-law’s job is part of a Title III grant entitled “Strengthening Institutions.” Actually, that is a little off center: how do you keep students from dropping out (and wasting tax payer college benefits)? Rhonda gave me the name of the woman who is working with vets at Indiana Tech and has spoken to her about us, so as soon as our book comes out we will go over and discuss if she can use it as a tool for a discussion group. When we wrote the book Annelie and I had in mind its use mostly by pastors in local churches and chaplains in their various setting. It also turns out now that the college religious studies professor who wrote one of the reviews for the book he thinks he will use it as one of the texts in a fall course on Christianity.

There is an inadequacy in the Fields of Combat, for all its strengths, and they are many. Its scope covers the social, cultural, political and economic aspects of veterans and PTSD. What is not covered is the religious. Military chaplains have a half dozen allusions, nothing more. Religion is more important than what is given here. If nothing else, my experience is that there are at least as many shooters and shot-ats in church on any Sunday morning as there were in the nearest bar that previous Saturday night. Perhaps the next generational anthropologist will even examine the current conflicts as being between the true believers and the purported non-believers.

If you have an urge to help or be helped in the field of traumatized, here is a book to expand your thinking. (and is there someone else who would like to read Fields of Combat? Please hit the “forward to” button.)

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