CORNING, N.Y. (WETM) — A Corning psychologist has been studying and refining a breakthrough technique in the treatment of PTSD, and is sharing it freely with mental health professionals in Ukraine in an effort to relieve the trauma of war.
Ever since working with victims of 9/11 in the days immediately following the attack, Dr. Frank Bourke has been working closely with victims of significant trauma, including military veterans. In the years since, Dr. Bourke has founded a non-profit called the Research and Recognition Project, dedicated to developing his hypothesis and putting a treatment into practice for widespread adoption.
The treatment, entitled the Reconsolidation of Traumatic Memories (RTM) Protocol, only works when the patient is relaxed, in stark contrast to other PTSD treatments like explosive or implosive therapy, which can be particularly traumatic because it requires the patient to actively re-live the trauma. The key to this is entirely neurological. Reconsolidation, according to Bourke, is the secret to achieving lasting results.
I’ve treated over a hundred Vietnam vets who’ve been having nightmares for 45 or 50 years, and two to four years later, they stop. They never have another one. The thing is like magic from a clinical perspective. While what we’re doing looks like ordinary talk therapy, we’re neurologically accessing and changing the way the memory is stored.Dr. Frank Bourke, PhD
Tackling PTSD in a clinical setting can be very difficult. Common evidence supported therapies like explosive therapy only work 40 percent of the time at most, and the results only last for up to six months. Dr. Bourke says that in the studies he and his team have commissioned and facilitated through military hospitals in the US like Walter Reed and Camp Pendleton, as well as others in the UK, he has seen a success rate upwards of 90 percent.
The cost of training clinicians in this new technique is not small, but it can be done in a relatively short period of time. In the span of a little under a month, he and his team trained 30 therapists in Ukraine to utilize this technique to help stem the tide of war induced trauma. All in all, it has cost his organization about a hundred thousand dollars to train up these Ukrainian clinicians, but he did it all Pro-Bono.
His drive to bring this technique to people in need stems from his time working with victims of 9/11. He wanted to bring more therapists that were already trained in the therapy, but bureaucratic road blockers told him that since they didn’t have PhD’s they couldn’t go with him to help.
So I’m flying into New York, and the smoke is coming up, and in my mind’s eye I’m seeing the thousands of people and the hundreds of therapists who need this damn protocol… and I’m sitting here with it in the plane, and I’ve carried that. That’s the anchor in me that’s kept me doing this for twenty years. I swore that at the next disaster, this thing would be known. Little did I think it would take twenty years!Dr. Frank Bourke, PhD
Even though Dr. Bourke is the face of the pioneering treatment, he refuses to take sole credit for the job.
The American thing to do is to make a poster boy of someone, “this is Doctor Bourke’s creation.” But it’s not… This is a real team effort from a small non-profit. Without those forty other researchers and therapists we wouldn’t be here.Dr. Frank Bourke, PhD
He is actively soliciting funding from charitable foundations or wealthy benefactors to help promote this new therapy across the clinical spectrum, from VA hospitals to private practice. He has involved legislators like our own local New York State Senator Tom O’Mara, all the way up to big names in the US Congress like Senator Tammy Duckworth. All of the individuals involved with the project believe it holds great promise.
Bourke jokingly likens his new therapy to the advent of penicillin. “It works, but you’ve gotta give me a break. Bread mold? What are you talking about?” he said with an optimistic grin on his face.