Veterans encouraged to participate in wellness study to help others recovering from combat

January 23, 2013

Photo: soldiers in Afghanistan

A U.S. soldier scans a nearby ridge following an engagement with anti-Afghan forces in Kunar province. Veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are being encouraged to participate in a UW–Madison study to help scientists discover new strategies for returning servicemembers adjusting to life after combat.

Photo: Tech. Sgt. Christopher Marasky, U.S. Air Force

Veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are encouraged to participate in a wellness study to help scientists discover new evidence-based strategies for returning servicemembers adjusting to life after combat.

The Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin–Madison Waisman Center is offering free complementary and alternative programs to veterans as part of a pioneering research study that is evaluating the effectiveness of these types of programs. The study’s findings could lead to a new model of care for those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Hundreds of thousands of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD, which may be the reason behind alarming increases in suicidal behavior among that group. Despite advances in psychotherapies and psychopharmacological approaches, conventional treatments are successful for only 50 percent of those treated.

Photo: Jack Nitschke


“There is an urgent need to find new, effective strategies for the many veterans who do not respond to conventional treatment,” says Jack Nitschke, associate professor of psychiatry and psychology, who is principal investigator of the study along with Richard J. Davidson, Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry and founder and chair of the center.

Complementary and alternative programs are cost-effective, free of side effects and often empowering because veterans can practice the techniques on their own, rather than depend on a clinician. Participants in the pilot phase of the study reported improved sleep, a reduction in chronic pain and an increased sense of optimism, among other benefits.

As part of its research study, the center is offering a free workshop that may include group discussions, breathing exercises, meditation and gentle stretching. The results of the study will help scientists determine if complementary and alternative programs are beneficial for veterans with PTSD and pinpoint which strategies are most effective for certain types of people.

The study’s sessions take place at the Waisman Center on the UW–Madison campus. Depending on the level of participation, individuals are paid up to $380. Reimbursement for gas (within 100 miles of Madison) is offered.

Veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom who are interested in participating in the study are encouraged to call 608-263-0803 or send an email to  to schedule a screening appointment.