When I first conceived of the character Deputy Kate Holland, I knew she would suffer from severe post-traumatic stress disorder due to her experiences as a POW in Afghanistan. As a veteran, I was determined to make Kate's recovery journey as realistic as possible. And since there are no quick fixes for PTSD, Kate wasn't going to get one. Hence, it took Kate the entirety of The Garbage Man, book 1 in her Hidden Valor suspense series, to go from denial to the realization that she needed help.
In the second book of the series, In the Name Of, I wanted Kate to actually enter therapy, even as she was tasked to work yet another series of grisly murders in and around her hometown of Braxton, Arkansas. I also wanted Kate's PTSD arc to incorporate normal setbacks along the way, as well as her eventual successes—because that's how life works.
I began where I always do: with research. Since Kate's trauma occurred as a result of combat, I initially plowed through a number of profoundly moving PTSD memoirs. From there, I surveyed the various types of treatments that are currently available for PTSD. Upon discovering that Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is the preferred treatment for the military, VA and thousands of psychiatrists and psychologists around the world, I dug deeper.
CPT is a time-tested, effective PTSD treatment created and developed by Dr. Patricia Resick, PH.D. Created in 1988, it's been in use for decades and is becoming more refined all the time. The therapy involves 12 trauma-focused sessions that center around "stuck points' or problem areas in thinking that interfere with the normal recovery process.
The more I read about CPT, the more I knew this was the right approach for Kate. I quickly purchased Dr. Resick's CPT therapists' manual and began to plow through the chapters. As I did, I deliberately took Kate through the prescribed 12 sessions of therapy laid out within. Not only did I have her character in mind as I read, I filled out the manual's enclosed worksheets as "Kate". The more worksheets I filled out and the more stuck points I uncovered, the more I realized I wanted readers to make that journey with Kate.
And what better way to share Kate's CPT journey than to weave the revelations within those worksheets into the Hidden Valor books?
I also wanted to incorporate the results from Kate's PTSD symptoms checklist. But since the wording on the official checklist is not mine—along with the printed, probing questions on those CPT worksheets—I did what any writer would do. I emailed CPT's creator, the brilliant and amazingly generous Dr. Resick to ask for permission to use them.
Not only did Dr. Resick respond to my email, she loaned me her incredible expertise as I crafted Kate's therapy. Dr. Resick answered my endless questions. She also helped me dig so much deeper into Kate and her psyche than I'd have thought possible. The result? While Kate's PTSD is pure ficiton, her recovery and its timeline are quite real. Even better—because it's based in reality—Kate's PTSD arc actually drives the suspense plot at times, affecting her current murder investigations in surprising ways. How cool is that?
Since PTSD can be such a crippling and pervasive syndrome—not only among our nation's veterans, but also amid folks from every country and every walk of life—I wanted to offer up a few official, real-world links for CPT. If you're suffering from PTSD or know someone who is, please check out the information and assistance at the ends of the links.
For more on PTSD—including symptoms & treatment—visit the National Center for PTSD: https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/what/ptsd_basics.asp
For more information on CPT: https://cptforptsd.com
To find a CPT-trained therapist near you or someone you care about: https://cptforptsd.com/cpt-provider-roster/
To listen to the Open Stance podcast with PTSD expert Dr. Patricia Resick, Ph.D., ABPP: https://pod.casts.io/podcasts/open-stance/episodes/open-stance-with-ptsd-expert-dr-patricia-resick-ph-d-abpp
To listen to The Therapy Show podcast on CPT with Dr. Patricia Resick, Ph.D.: https://www.therapyshow.com/podcasts/episode/44795d33/53-dr-patricia-resick-on-cognitive-processing-therapy-a-gold-standard-treatment-for-ptsd
To listen to a real patient undergo CPT: https://www.thisamericanlife.org/682/ten-sessions
Fair Winds & Following Seas,