MUSC doctors back from Japan after treating personal aftershocks

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - What wasn't leveled by the earthquake, fell victim to the tsunami. In late April, the death toll in Japan rose above 14,000 people and according to MUSC Doctors some of those that survived may be experiencing aftershocks of their own.

Dr. Peter Tuerk and Dr. Matthew Yoder were asked by a University in Mito, Japan to travel to the country and provide solutions on how to deal with people experiencing post traumatic stress.

"We did a three day training there for their students and faculty," says Yoder, a psychologist. "These are people that are going to go out into disaster communities and provide basic assessments and screenings to see who is going to need help down the line."

The program focused on what to do when, not if, the situation arises.

"We created an action plan for them to go into the effected areas and work at evacuation centers, schools and nursing homes," says Yoder, "all places where there's vulnerable populations."

In addition to the graduate students and faculty members, 140 citizens also showed up to be briefed on the disorder. Dr. Tuerk says he practices Prolonged Exposure Therapy to cope with PTSD and taught that method to his overseas audience.

"Prolonged exposure therapy helps people by helping them not avoid what they're afraid of so their natural healing process can take over," says Dr. Tuerk. "The treatment helps people sit with the memories they're already having and do it in a way that is therapeutic to have them expose themselves to the most difficult aspects of the traumatic memories."

Dr. Tuerk says in essence it's facing their fears over extended periods of time. Which is exactly what he says 10-30% of the population that was affected by the disaster needs: Time.

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