Most veteran service providers can attest to the many barriers veterans experience when attempting to access effective counseling. With that knowledge & the hope to help someone close to me to ‘get better,’ I read the book The Post-Traumatic Insomnia Workbook by Karin Elorriaga Thompson & C. Laurel Franklin. I was hoping to find a book that would help (even nominally) someone who wants to get better but cannot see a therapist. I think I found a 90% match!
The Post-Traumatic Insomnia Workbook is an interactive workbook combing psychoeducation and applicable practice exercises. Although this book was not written for veterans, I could imagine that veterans (or those who are still serving), their families, or service providers who don’t feel skilled in helping people sleep better would find value in this workbook. Throughout the book I found it intriguing that components of mindfulness were plentiful, even though the authors did not necessarily make reference to mindfulness.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation
- Gratitude-ish Practice
Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and relaxing the muscles of the body in a sequential and systematic order. This is a technique that is taught in the distress tolerance module of DBT Skills Group. Participants learn that progressive muscle relaxation helps our bodies to slow down and thus lower the intensity of an emotion. This book gives the reader a script to use; I find this to be extremely difficult to administer to oneself if they are not experienced in the technique. I would recommend having a trusted significant other read the script, or using an app like Insight Timer or Hope Box.
In the chapter titled Prepare Your Body and Mind for Sleep the authors teach a practice they called ‘put the day to rest.’ They guide the reader to take a few minutes to think about their day & what was accomplished, and then jot down any concerns, worries, or to-do items for the next day. The first portion can be helpful to work on a gratitude practice, and the second portion can help to keep anxiety at bay by focusing on what today is and tabling what is due for tomorrow. Another spin on this type of practice is to think about ‘what went well.’ The key would be to focus on the small things that one would normally miss, like starting your day with a full tank of gas (however, you would definitely notice and likely get agitated by an empty tank of gas!).
This workbook incorporated several uses of the observe technique often referred to in mindfulness practices. In a cognitive behavioral worksheet the book prompts the user to describe the situation, their feelings, and thoughts/images/beliefs they are having. This gives the reader an opportunity to take a deep look at how they are perceiving a situation and the impact of that perception. For this to truly be an observe mindfulness practice, one would need to ensure that they are not judging or ruminating, but simply observing them and possibly gaining some insight for future happenings. A reader could take this one step further by observing their “STUF”: Sensations, Thoughts, Urges, and Feeling. I find the step further helps with veteran clients because emotions are not valued in the military, and therefore many veterans do not know how to identify emotions and all components of that emotion.
Later in that same chapter, the authors teach the reader how to distance themselves from their thoughts to aid in teaching the brain that thoughts are not facts. The technique they used is observing the thoughts that are occurring. This is done by using a phrase like “I had the thought that….” To take it further, the reader could say to themselves “I noticed I had the thought that….”
Thompson, K.E., & Franklin, C.L. (2010). The Post-Traumatic Insomnia Workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.
Kimberly Hardy, LMHC