Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition brought on by a stressful or distressing event that affects as many as 7.7 million Americans aged 18 and over (source: The National Institute of Mental Health). Common symptoms may include severe anxiety, nightmares and sleeplessness, and flashbacks, as well as uncontrollable recollections of the event, leading sufferers to feel frightened and stuck in “fight-or-flight” response mode even when they’re no longer in danger, and often long after the event occurs.
When a person experiences a traumatic event, a clinician can provide a detailed health assessment and determine whether PTSD is the correct diagnosis. Recovery options may include medication, involvement in social support groups, and perhaps most importantly, counseling. In fact, counseling is so essential to PTSD treatment that some graduate counseling programs now offer course tracts specifically related to PTSD.
These counseling programs often use role-playing or standardized patient-based medical simulation education to train counselors to address the specific needs of trauma victims. In these sessions, a trained actor (otherwise known as a standardized patient, or SP) will portray the emotional and physical symptoms associated with the condition. The counselor will then develop their skills and learn proper assessment and treatment techniques.
While PTSD was first brought to public attention when First World War military veterans were diagnosed with “shell shock,” and it’s still largely associated with soldiers, it can also be triggered by such diverse events as sexual or bodily assault, torture or kidnapping, mugging, vehicular accidents, or natural disasters such as fires, earthquakes, or floods.
Consequently, people of all races, ethnicities, ages, and genders may experience PTSD following a trauma. PTSD and anxiety disorders may then be linked to wider issues of mental health and cultural expectation. It’s necessary that counseling students become sensitive to individual needs and master skills in a variety of therapy techniques, ensuring the right course of treatment for every patient.