Psychologist Peter Tuerk was attracted to the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center because it allowed him to marry two of his passions: clinical treatment of Veterans with PTSD and continuing advancement of PTSD treatments through research. Tuerk’s passion for treating Veterans has propelled him to be a leader in the field.
At the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, South Carolina, Tuerk serves as the section chief for the PTSD Clinical Team and is also an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina. His desire to serve Veterans led to his leadership in running the first VA clinic in the country to offer Prolonged Exposure therapy via telehealth or video teleconferencing technology to rural Veterans. This evidence-based treatment for PTSD has significantly improved outcomes for Veterans suffering from PTSD. Tuerk broke new ground in the VA providing this specialty telehealth treatment to Veterans that might not otherwise have access, while proving its effectiveness in several research studies published in top-tiered national journals including the American Journal of Psychiatry and The Journal of Traumatic Stress. Tuerk’s clinic was also the first in the U.S. to provide and publish research on in-home exposure therapy for Veterans with PTSD whose symptom presentation and other circumstances present a special need.
By serving as a national Prolonged Exposure consultant, one of 12 national workshop trainers for the VA Office of Mental Health Service Prolonged Exposure rollout, Tuerk has the opportunity to train other providers. To date he has trained over 120 VA mental health clinicians in this treatment, further spreading the therapy nationwide to aid Veterans with PTSD.
“It’s quite a thrill when a young Marine who deployed three times tells you he can feel his emotions again or when a Vietnam Veteran has finally learned to enjoy his family after 30 years and knowing you had a part in helping them get there,” Tuerk said. “That’s recognition enough for me.”
In the video below he introduces how we process experiences and trauma. Using examples from his research, he describes how it’s possible to process memories and their associated meanings to overcome a traumatic incident. When active avoidance impedes natural recovery the most effective healing is facilitated through treatment designed to limit avoidance and to assist with the processing of relevant information.
This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx
To find out more about the great work being done at the Ralph H. Johnson Medical Center visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/VAMCCharleston