Veterans Alternative was established in 2014. It was started as a thought, driven by the experiences Brian Anderson, CEO and Founder, went through coming home from War and transitioning out of the Military. He carried five Brothers’ deaths with him everywhere he went. Brian was consumed with memories of war, exhausted and broken, and prayed for a change. In June 2013, Brian attended annual training for the National Guard at Ft. Polk, La. The training was scheduled to last two weeks, but Brian became hyper vigilant, started to panic and became confused. The experience often described as fight, flight or freeze, is similar to chasing an enemy combatant through un-cleared territory, only at home, there was no enemy to chase. Brian was immediately flown home scared, angry and humiliated. Within a week of coming home, Brian was introduced to an emerging treatment for P.T.S.D., Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART).
Brian would see fallen teammates daily as well as his own death and destruction all around him. After one session of ART, all the images invading him in the here and now went away. He still faced challenges, but also found actual hope. Brian began promoting ART everywhere he went, and soon worked for a research study on ART conducted by Dr. Kevin Kip and the University of South Florida, College of Nursing. Brian wanted to make sure ART was available to every one of his brothers and sisters that are serving or have served in war. As the Military and Veteran community are trained to be self-sufficient, it is hard for many Warriors to accept individual services or seek individual care. Marketing ART became Brian’s passion and he found innovative ways to support and attract Warriors to the therapy.
Brian met Janel Norton, Veterans Alternative co-founder and owner of Trinity Yoga. The two invited Combat Veterans to 1-day yoga retreats where they spoke about performance enhancement and growth through ART and Integrative Restoration (iRest Yoga Nidra). The two modalities are the primary therapies provided at Veterans Alternative and combined we consistently see major improvement in post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety. *See Program Evaluation
In the summer of 2014, while attending the Stanford Ignite program, Brian attended a lecture by Gen. James Mattis, and was introduced to the concept of Post-Traumatic Growth; a perspective shift from the more common post-traumatic stress. Soon after, Brian realized that it was time to start a nonprofit and reached out to Janel Norton to partner with him to begin this venture.
The name “Veterans Alternative” was suggested by Marine Corps Combat Veteran Miguel Vazquez. The property to house Veterans Alternative was donated by the American Legion Post 173. Veterans Alternative gained momentum by winning first place in Pasco County’s Smart Start Challenge for new businesses. Brian gained the support of Pat Thompson, Executive Director of the Chris T. Sullivan (C.T.S.) Foundation and Founding Board Member of Veterans Alternative. Chris T. Sullivan Foundation soon became a supporter of Veterans Alternative. On Veterans Day, November 11, 2014 Veterans Alternative celebrated a groundbreaking ceremony. A partnership was formed with USF College of Nursing as a research site for Dr. Kevin Kip’s latest study on ART In just over a month Alison Voisin, Veterans Alternative’ Clinical Director, provided 5 sessions of ART to 25 Combat Veterans.
Volunteers and businesses worked on Veterans Alternative property, preparing for the Center’s grand Opening on Memorial Day, May 25, 2015. Veterans Alternative gained media attention and had over 30 articles written about the program the first year. ART and iRest were offered on a daily basis in a team house setting. Other activities such as physical fitness, yoga, and community BBQ’s were provided to attract Warriors to our primary practices.
In the spring of 2016 Veterans Alternative partnered with the H.O.O.A.H. Foundation to provide services to Army Rangers. The Accelerated Wellness Program (AWP) was developed after all initial participants indicated the one week program saved their lives. The State of Florida began funding the AWP for 84 Veterans a year beginning in July 2016. Currently, AWPs are held 2-3 times a month. The Veterans Alternative program evaluation shows a 46% reduction in post-traumatic stress, 61% in depression and 56% in anxiety.
Veterans Alternative is strategically planning to open a second site in Fayetteville, NC and looks to provide services in other areas with large Veteran and Military populations.