81: Post-Traumatic Growth for Veterans & First Responders with Dr. Nicole McKenna

Military personnel and first responders show up to other people’s worst day, every day. Exposed to workplace experiences the rest of us can’t imagine, some experience post-traumatic stress, and some work through that experience to demonstrate post-traumatic growth.

Can yoga play a part in biasing these populations toward growth? Today’s guest, Dr. Nicole McKenna, is here to share her thoughts on the topic.

Dr. McKenna has a Ph.D. in Forensic Psychology with a concentration in crisis response, and is also a Yoga Medicine Therapeutic Specialist. She started her working life in the military as an Army Master Fitness Trainer, and now blends her fields of experience and expertise to help military personnel, veterans and first responders manage the physical and psychological impacts of their work.

In this episode, she and host Rachel discuss post-traumatic stress and its symptoms along with tips for working with veterans and first responders.

Listen in as we share what sort of yoga practices can bias these individuals towards post-traumatic growth rather than post-traumatic stress.

“If you can think of a symptom, it could be related to PTSD.” – Dr. Nicole McKenna


“If we don’t start to focus on the wellness of the individuals executing the work…we’re just going to continue to have more and more significant issues.” – Dr. Nicole McKenna

Show Notes:

  • What sets military veterans and first responders apart [3:05]
  • Avoiding processing traumatic experiences can be a form of adaptation [5:43]
  • Defining post-traumatic stress and potential symptoms [7:58]
  • Building trust with veterans and first responders [15:07]
  • Direct communication and instruction are key [20:18]
  • It can take time to feel benefit from more subtle yoga practices [23:18]
  • What is post-traumatic growth [29:49]
  • Different approaches help different individuals [36:01]
  • Tips for starting yoga work with veterans and first response [40:11]
  • The comfort of repetition and knowing what to expect [43:37]
  • When to incorporate breath work and/or meditation practices [45:48]
  • Keep verbal cues and class themes simple and practical [50:48]
  • More resources [57:26]
  • Polarized opinions on military and first responder organizations [58:18]
  • Dr. McKenna’s recommending reading list [1:02:20]

Links Mentioned:

Facebook | Instagram | Grateful Warrior Yoga Foundation

“There needs to be some type of physical wellness program that offers a channel for these individuals to not have to be unwell and then be repaired.” – Dr. Nicole McKenna

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