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Warrior PATHH: a different type of therapy

By CHARITY FITCH (charity@waxahachiesun.com)


Warrior PATHH, a 90-day program offered at Eagle Oak Retreat in Italy, Texas, allows veterans and first responders to go through basic training on posttraumatic growth.


The program was created in 2014 to provide a new innovative way to help veterans and first responders overcome their posttraumatic stress.


“They’re living as miniature versions of themselves,” Steven Brush, PATHH program manager, said. “The reality is you can live a better life because of what you went through and in spite of what you went through.”


The Warrior PATHH program begins at Eagle Oak Retreat, where six to eight participants will spend seven days completing 52 modules and 75 contact hours. While at the retreat, they stay in a 3,800-square foot bunkhouse, complete with washers and dryers.


Each module is interactive and first demonstrated by the instructor, with many of the modules teaching wellness skills to help participants “struggle well.” Instructors must complete 60 hours of training to lead the program.


Brush describes those first seven days as a “buffet.”


“We’re going to teach them the core meat and potatoes (key wellness practices), and then they’re going to pick and choose (others),” Brush said. “We’re essentially letting you test out a bunch of things you’ve probably never heard of, and then (you) leave here with a plate of what your ideal regiment routine should look like to put you in the best place to thrive.”


The modules include archery, the labyrinth, equine assisted learning, journaling and more.

The labyrinth, located in a secluded area at Eagle Oak Retreat, is one of the most powerful parts of the program for every class, Brush said.


Based on the design of ancient warrior cultures, the labyrinth is a time for reflection as one walks to the center, carrying a rock equal to the weight they feel like they’ve been carrying.


“They’re reflecting on what they’re leaving behind – things that they need to put to rest,” Brush said. “When you reach the center, you reflect on it and leave that stone in the center. On your way out, you reflect on the new life that you’re going to be living.”


The rest of the program is completed virtually through team calls and an app called myPATHH, which provides accountability and support.


“Traditional therapy is not the best option for military and first responders,” Andrew Cox, retired U.S. Army Captain and PATHH graduate, said during the facility’s ribbon cutting ceremony Feb. 24.


Cox explained how they want to find the solution, fix the problem and move on. When approaching a therapist or counselor, Cox said he’s looking for both guidance and answers.


“If I ask, ‘Why do I feel this way?’ and they respond, ‘Why do you think you feel this way?’ then I’m going to be frustrated,” Cox said. “If I knew why I felt this way, I wouldn’t be here asking you, so training programs like PATHH are a much better option.”


Through an 18-month assessment, Boulder Crest Foundation found that Warrior PATHH graduates experience a 51% decrease in PTSD symptoms, 41% reduction in anxiety, 35% less stress, 21% increase in self-compassion, and 56% increase in posttraumatic growth.


Development officer Dennise Watanabe said they can already see the importance of bringing the Warrior PATHH program to Texas. The first class in March is already completely full, with their classes in April and May near capacity, she said. Since opening their applications, they’ve had more than 60 applicants.

Texas has a large veteran community, she said, and is home to 15 active-duty military bases. Before the addition of Eagle Oak Retreat, Texan veterans and first responders had to travel to other states to complete the Warrior PATHH program.


Another program offered at Eagle Oak Retreat is Family Rest and Recreation, which provides a space for families to reconnect through archery, fishing, group activities and more.

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