Goal therapy treatment helps ease life for veterans with PTSD

Goal Management Training (GMT) is designed to help improve abilities like attention, memory, focus and organization. The Homewood Research Institute in Guelph recently received funding to offer the training in outpatient clinics for military members.

Goal Management Training helps improve memory, attention and decision-making, research shows

The Homewood Institute in Guelph is expanding its study on Goal Management Training to outpatients clinics for military members and veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)

The Homewood Research Institute in Guelph is studying a new form of treatment to help improve the quality of life for people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Goal Management Training (GMT) is designed to help improve abilities like attention, memory, focus and organization.

Dr. Margaret McKinnon, an associate professor at McMaster University, said many people with mental health conditions experience cognitive difficulties, alongside emotional challenges.

"Most approaches for PTSD focus on emotions, so emotions related to fear or guilt or shame," McKinnon explained.

"The techniques that we teach in Goal Management Training we hope will translate to everyday life."

'Stop and think'

McKinnon said GMT teaches people to keep a goal in mind, break it down into smaller goals, and to check back and reevaluate those goals. One of the most important things patients are taught to do is to stop.

"Often when we do things in our everyday life, we're on automatic pilot," she said.

"A good example of that would be that you're driving home from work, you need to pick something up, but you just automatically drive home and you forget to stop and think about what your goal is."

Dr. Margaret McKinnon is the chair in mental health and trauma at the Homewood Research Institute, and an associate professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences at McMaster University. (Homewood Research Institute)

McKinnon's preliminary findings show people with PTSD who undergo the training have improved memory, attention and decision-making abilities.

The research also shows they were better able to focus and complete their goals, even while under emotional stress.

To be offered in outpatient clinics

McKinnon said the goal is to now bring the treatment out into the community.

The Homewood Research Institute recently received $200,000 from the Military Casualty Support Foundation, the Cowan Foundation and RBJ Schlegel Holdings to expand its study to outpatients clinics for military members and veterans.

The funding will support a series of nine-week programs with 12 participants, which will be held in Toronto and London.

McKinnon said they also hope to bring the approach to first responders diagnoses with PTSD, including firefighters and paramedics.


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