By Claire Hughes
April 15, 2017
The vets' former therapist, now retired, had handpicked them to be together, and they have formed tight bonds, said group member Peter Risatti, 72, of Tyringham, Mass.
They don't get as much professional help with their PTSD as they used to, but a dozen or so Vietnam veterans are doing what they can to keep each other strong.
The Stratton VA Medical Center in Albany last year ended the type of group therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder that the vets had received for about 15 years. The VA offered the vets different therapists and approaches, but not all together and not in a way they were accustomed to, as the group tells it. The big difference, from the vets' perspective, was that the new therapy would require them to confront their combat experience, 40-50 years after they'd been at war. The rules of their old therapy were to never exhume those memories — "you didn't go back into Country" is how they put it — unless everyone in the room agreed to it.
The vets, in their late 60s and older, think the time has passed for them to face down the blood and gore they witnessed.
"They're not tailoring it to us," said Tom Gage, 72, from South Egremont, Mass. "They're tailoring us to them."
The vets' former therapist, now retired, had handpicked them to be together, and they have formed tight bonds, said group member Peter Risatti, 72, of Tyringham, Mass. The group focused on issues in their current lives ignited by their PTSD — anger, anxiety, alcohol abuse. In an interview last year, some of the men said there were no other people in the world they talked to about anything, ever.
After a story appeared in the Times Union in January 2016, fellow veterans offered the guys support to get their therapy reinstated, and a protest was planned for the end of March, Risatti said.
Then a psychologist at the VA, a veteran herself, offered to facilitate the group, he said. The guys like her. But instead of a 90-minute session every week, the vets now get 60 minutes every other week. And that hour-long session can be shortened if an earlier scheduled meeting in their room runs long.
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