We’ve noted throughout the years that clients suffering from PTSD due to motor vehicle accidents sometimes go through setbacks in the therapeutic process due to the additional stress of having to deal with the frustration and insulting treatment by their insurance companies. One such client said, “I have had the same auto insurance company for decades. After I was rear-ended I felt like they turned their back on me. I have paid them tens of thousands of dollars over the years and all I get is the run around. I am on the phone for hours being passed from one department to the next. I get so frustrated...the pain in my neck from whiplash becomes unbearable and I can feel my blood pressure rising... ”
If you’ve been in a vehicular accident, and many of us have, there’s a good chance you may have had a similar experience. This client compassionately noted that the people on the other end of the phone were just doing their jobs and the problem is systemic; but this knowledge didn’t help reduce his distress.
In our practice, on-the-job injuries and workers compensation insurance are frequently more difficult than motor vehicle accidents. Case in point: A few years ago we assisted a client with her spouse’s worker’s comp case. Her husband had been badly injured on the job – he fell 30 feet onto his head and was not expected to live. But he was incredibly strong, both physically and mentally – and he survived. Over a two-year period, after numerous operations and procedures to repair his badly broken body, he was deemed unemployable. The only relief from the pain he suffered came during his twice weekly physical therapy sessions. Unfortunately, his doctor did not recommend psychotherapy.
Then one day he received a letter from his workers compensation insurance company that his benefits would cease at the end of the month. He would no longer receive the much-needed physical therapy his work-related injuries required. The close relationships he had developed with his physical therapists, which had replaced those of his co-workers, would be no more. In terrible physical, mental and emotional pain, and not wanting to be a burden to his family, he took his own life, leaving behind his wife, five children and six grandchildren. This is clearly an extreme case, but not without parallels.
Post Mortem Psychological Report
We were asked to determine, if not for the accident, would the decedent have taken his life anyway. Preparing a psychological report posthumously proved a challenge. Following intensive interviews with carefully selected family members, friends and supervisors as well as co-workers from different companies he had worked for over the previous three decades (30 people total), we determined without a doubt that the answer was a resounding: NO! In fact, prior to the accident, the man had been an exemplary worker, was physically and sexually active, had an outgoing, pro-social personality, had – since the accident - adopted a foster-child he and his wife had raised since birth and was looking forward to watching her grow up. He was also the well-respected and much-loved patriarch of his very large extended family. His post-mortem psychological report proved that suicide was not on his radar prior to receiving the letter from his workers comp company. While working on the case, Time Perspective Therapy (TPT) was employed during grief counseling individually with his wife and in a group setting with his adult children. They learned to replace flashbacks and thoughts of the accident and suicide with the many positive aspects of their lives together. They also learned to plan for their futures without their patriarch; his wife stepped forward and gracefully filled the rather large shoes he left behind. They won his case posthumously.
Is Insurance for Profit or a Humanitarian Undertaking?
Whether health care, automobile or workers comp, people are frustrated with insurance companies. Unfortunately, it seems that somewhere along the way our mission in the health field – to serve humanity ’s suffering and do no harm - got bought off by the for-profit interests of big industry who enjoy extraordinary profits while those in need and their families suffer.
Assuring Compassion in Health Care
We applaud the Affordable Care Act as a step toward recognizing this escalating problem and trying to strike a fair balance between humanitarian and for-profit interests. According to Healthcare.gov (http://www.healthcare.gov/law/resources/reports/mlr-rebates06212012a.html), the Affordable Care Act “holds health insurance companies accountable to consumers and ensures that American families are reimbursed if health insurance companies don’t meet a fair standard of value. Because of the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies now must reveal how much of premium dollars they actually spend on health care and how much they spend on administration, such as salaries and marketing. This information was not shared with consumers in the past. Not only is this information made available to consumers for the first time, if an insurance company spends less than 80% of premiums on medical care and quality (or less than 85% in the large group market, which is generally insurance provided through large employers), it must rebate the portion of premium dollars that exceeded this limit. ”
Revisiting Our Car Accident Client
Over the course of therapy, TPT worked well with our car accident client. He discovered that by recalling positive, happy times he had experienced in the past while driving instead of dwelling negatively on the accident, he could control his mood and therefore his blood pressure instead of thoughts that made him depressed and anxious. He watched The River of Time video daily as homework. He used the time when he was placed on hold by the insurance company to practice self-soothing techniques to stay calm - such as slow, deep breathing. Then he used TPT in additional aspects of his life. He started to replace other past negatives he had experienced, not just the car accident, with past positives. He stopped asking “Why Me?” and obsessing about what had happened and started enjoying life again, now asking, “Why Not Me?” He completed our therapy process successfully. And then, recently, he was in another car accident …
A Brighter Future
After the client joked about missing our sessions, he explained that he had once again been rear-ended and his trauma symptoms had returned. By this time, our book, “The Time Cure: Overcoming PTSD with the New Psychology of Time Perspective Therapy” had been published and he had read it. He said, “Reading about other people’s extreme trauma put mine into perspective.” In a couple of TPT sessions, he was back on track and planning for his brighter, future positive which included replacing his looming fear of a future negative re-occurrence with hope for no more accidents and time to explore his new found present hedonism.
Visit our website, www.timecure.com, to view a free 20 minute video - The River of Time; you’ll learn self soothing techniques as well as how to let go of past negatives, work towards a brighter future, and live in a more compassionate present.