By: Frank Bourke, Ph.D.
Introduction to the RTM Protocol for PTSD of the Research and Recognition Project:
The Research and Recognition Project, a 501 3 C not for profit corporation, has just been awarded a $300,000 NYS Grant to conduct a pilot study on a treatment protocol for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Clinical results of the cognitive therapy style treatment are showing the removal of the nightmare, flashback and related emotional symptoms of PTSD in less than five hours of treatment. The protocol, Reconsolidation of Traumatic Memories (RTM), is named after newly researched neurological findings on traumatic memories (See this article by Byron Lewis for an overview). While its clinical administration resembles Cognitive Therapy, its efficacy is more a product of changes effected, during its administration, in the neurology of the traumatic memory than the conscious control achieved during traditional Cognitive/Behavior Therapy.
The award was based, in large part, on support from professionals at five Universities who have observed or used the protocol with veterans. If the research results substantiate the clinical observations, the protocol could save the government over 5 billion dollars in the next ten years, based on the recent Rand Report. More importantly, it would reverse the accrual of thousands of disabled veterans over the next twenty years and could provide substantial relief to the severely overburdened VA system. Professionals at the Research and Recognition Project caution that the RTM Protocol has no effect on the alcohol, drug, anxiety, depression, family and vocational problems that accrue in veterans coping with PTSD for extended periods of time. Given the size and scope of this nationally recognized problem, they are hoping to complete the studies necessary to bring the Protocol into widespread practice, on an accelerated schedule with the help of private Foundations and Veterans Organizations.
The R & R project was founded in 2008 to bring clinically effective mental health treatments through the research steps necessary to have them recognized as evidentiary medicine. Most of the materials come from a little known and professionally unrecognized field of mental health materials, called Neuro- Linguistic Programming (NLP). While the field has been under clinical development for thirty years, professional practitioners, here in the U.S, and in Europe, have only recently begun a research movement to validate the effective clinical materials the field contains. The research movement is evidenced by the founding of the bi-annual NLP Research Conference in 2008, the NLP Research Journal in 2010, and the Not for profit Research and Recognition Project (R & R) in 2007.
Members of the R & R Project developed a researchable version of a treatment protocol for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2009, as the first protocol to bring through the research and publication process to classification as evidentiary medicine. Since then it has trained Clinical University Professors in the protocols administration, and submitted University supported grant proposals for 28 million dollars to study the protocol. Additionally, it has developed, written and published the neurological underpinning of the protocol and published them in Traumatology Journal in the Fall of 2012 (Link to Article PDF). The development of the Reconsolidation of Traumatic Memories protocol represents the first serious attempt to bring an NLP derived treatment protocol through the research/publication sequence to recognition as evidentiary medicine.
Clinical Professionals from Marshall University, Ohio University, Syracuse University, Columbia University and Bradley University are involved (See Attestations here-PDF file). In 2012, the Project members edited and had published the first academically oriented book overviewing the field in Routledge Press’s Advances in Mental Health Research Series. The book is titled, “The Clinical Effectiveness of Neurolinguistic Programming, A Critical Appraisal”. Chapter Four overviews the materials related to PTSD. (For more information about this book, follow this link.)
Clinically, the core of PTSD is usually a phobic response to a terrifying event that is relived (nightmares/flashbacks) in response to specific sensory triggers or during sleep. While clinical trials of the RTM Protocol are demonstrating clinical effectiveness with core PTSD symptoms, the associated symptoms that are often triggered by these same memories, frequently need clinical treatment before or after the administration of the RTM protocol to produce a complete clinical intervention. The problems being most encountered are grief/loss, self-blame (guilt, shame, regret, remorse), other-blame (anger, rage, resentment), anxiety, or disillusionment—the loss or revision of fundamental meanings about the self or the world. Additional researchable protocols dealing with these other problems have also been developed and will be researched as well.