Kareem Johnson | Digital Journalist

Company Goes Online in Effort to Reduce Post-Traumatic Stress

By Kareem Johnson | Email the author | January 2, 2011

Jeff Eastman is a man with a plan. Eastman, a native of Clayton, came up with a way for people to receive treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and other forms of stress without leaving home.

His inspiration?

“A dancing girl, and 300,000 soldiers coming back with PTSD and not being taken care of,” Eastman said.

Eastman, an attorney, is president and majority stockholder of the Clayton Stress Institute, based in Clayton. He has founded many St. Louis companies including Eastman Marketing, whose clients include Monsanto and Anheuser-Busch. He is also a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and the St. Louis University School of Law.

Eastman said Clayton Stress can treat a person at home using nothing but a computer and access to the Internet. It is the only Web-based provider of what it calls “self-directed help for stress and anxiety,” according to a news release.

While veterans were the impetus for the company, its services are available for people seeking treatment for various kinds of trauma.

A PowerPoint presentation by Clayton Stress—a copy of which is attached to this article—outlines its concerns about the treatment available to veterans.

Accoring to the presentation, the House Armed Services Committee has said there are only 35 percent of the needed health-care professionals to treat troops suffering from PTSD, and the need for treatment is expected to continue.

Eastman said he became very angry “that the kids coming back with PTSD were not really being cared for.”

The seeds for treatment came to him as he researched optical illusions and treatments. He described how people can perceive the same image in different ways. Take the image of a dancing girl who is spinning around.*

“Some people see the girl spinning to the left, counter-clockwise, others to (the) right, clockwise,” Eastman said. “Some people can see it both ways.”

He continued to investigate how it was possible to view the same event from multiple perspectives. After a period time, he found that he could see the image of the dancing girl rotating in either direction, “sort of like a gate.”

That was the first part of the treatment puzzle. Eastman discovered the second piece after speaking with a friend who is a psychotherapist. Eastman told his friend about PTSD and how it aggravated him.

His friend, in turn, introduced to a technique known as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing that can be used to help people who have experienced trauma.

Much as the image of the dancing girl helped Eastman process the fact that the same scenario could be viewed from multiple perspectives, EMDR is aimed at helping people see the various aspects of trauma they have experienced and process the negative emotions that can otherwise be overwhelming.

Clayton Stress claims that 93 percent of the more than 1,500 people who have taken one online session have reported a 43 percent reduction in stress. Participants have included veterans and those not associated with the military.

The identities of those who participate in Clayton Stress’ online program are kept confidential. Only a valid e-mail address is required to register.

Clayton Stress also aims to provide treatment at a lower cost than that provided by some therapists. Marketing materials from the company state that the average cost of a therapist can run anywhere from $100 to $150 an hour, not including medications. The EMDR technique does not require medication.

Clayton Stress has applied for a patent application for the online EMDR treatment.

Dr. Thomas Geracioti, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and a research physician at the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center, has worked with Eastman.

“EMDR is a safe and efficacious treatment for PTSD,” Geracioti stated in an e-mail interview. “However, there is much about EMDR that we don’t know, including whether or not it can prevent PTSD. Jeff’s idea to bring EMDR widely (and automatically) to the front line military could have a major positive impact if it can.”

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