Military Sexual Trauma: Seeking Healing Through Traditional and Alternative Approaches

Military Sexual Trauma: Seeking Healing Through Traditional and Alternative Approaches


Military sexual trauma (MST) is the term used by Veterans Affairs (VA) to refer to sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment experienced during military service. This trauma can occur in various situations, including being sexually assaulted, being forced into unwanted sexual activities, or experiencing sexual harassment from military personnel.



MST affects both men and women across all branches of the military. However, studies suggest that women are at a higher risk, with estimates indicating that 23% of women and 4% of men experience MST. This trauma can impact individuals of any age, race, or socioeconomic status. 



  • MST can lead to long-term mental health issues such as PTSD, depression, and substance abuse.
  • The VA has specialized treatment programs and resources for individuals who have experienced MST.

Traditional Treatments

Treatment for MST often involves a combination of psychotherapy and medication. 

Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is an effective treatment approach for various mental health conditions. It involves working with a therapist to explore thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, develop coping strategies, and promote positive change. Common psychotherapies include cognitive processing therapy (CPT) and prolonged exposure therapy (PE). Psychotherapy can be tailored to address specific concerns and is beneficial for individuals from all backgrounds.These therapies aim to help individuals process the trauma, manage symptoms, and develop coping strategies.

Medications, such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, may also be prescribed to alleviate symptoms like depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances.



  • CPT focuses on challenging and modifying trauma-related thoughts and beliefs.
  • PE involves gradually exposing individuals to trauma-related stimuli in a safe environment.


Holistic Treatments

Many individuals seek alternative therapies alongside traditional treatments. These may include:

Mindfulness-based therapies: Practices like meditation and yoga can help reduce stress, anxiety, and negative thought patterns.

Acupuncture: This ancient Chinese practice involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to promote healing and balance.

Art therapy: Using art as a form of expression can facilitate emotional processing and self-exploration.

Exercise and outdoor activities: Physical exercise and spending time in nature can improve mood, reduce stress, and promote overall well-being.



  • Mindfulness practices can enhance emotion regulation and improve quality of life.
  • Art therapy can provide a non-verbal outlet for expressing and processing trauma.


Potential Benefits of Cannabis and CBD

People are slowly turning away from traditional medicine and tapping into the therapeutic benefits of cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD) for managing symptoms associated with trauma, such as anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances.

Cannabis contains various compounds called cannabinoids, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD. THC is the primary psychoactive compound responsible for the "high" associated with cannabis, while CBD is non-psychoactive and may offer therapeutic benefits without the intoxicating effects. CBD interacts with the body's endocannabinoid system, which plays a role in regulating various physiological processes, including mood, stress response, and inflammation.

Research suggests that CBD may have anxiolytic and antidepressant properties, potentially alleviating symptoms of anxiety disorders and depression. CBD may influence neurotransmitter systems such as serotonin and GABA, which are involved in mood regulation and anxiety.


Routes of Administration

Cannabis and CBD can be consumed in various forms. I always like to discuss the different ways you can use your plant medicine. There is no right way- each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a refresher:

  • Oils and tinctures: Placed under the tongue for absorption through the sublingual mucosa. Offer fast absorption but may have a strong taste.
  • Inhalation: This method offers the fastest onset of effects but may irritate the lungs and is not suitable for everyone, especially those with respiratory issues.
  • Oral consumption: Edibles and capsules offer a sustained release of cannabinoids but take longer to take effect (up to 2 hours) and can be unpredictable in terms of dosing.
  • Topicals: Creams and lotions can be applied directly to areas of pain or inflammation for localized relief but may not be effective for managing widespread symptoms.


Things to Remember:

  • Legality: Cannabis laws vary widely by state and country. It's crucial to consult with a healthcare professional knowledgeable about medical cannabis and the legalities in your area.
  • Drug Interactions: Cannabis can interact with some medications, so it's important to disclose all medications you are taking to your doctor before considering cannabis use.
  • Side Effects: While generally well-tolerated, cannabis can cause side effects like dry mouth, dizziness, and drowsiness.



  • CBD has been shown to have anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • The legality and regulations surrounding cannabis and CBD vary by location, so it's important to check local laws.


Wrapping It All Up:

Military sexual trauma can have profound and long-lasting impacts on an individual's mental and physical well-being. While traditional treatments like psychotherapy and medication can be effective, many individuals may also benefit from incorporating complementary and alternative approaches, such as mindfulness practices, acupuncture, art therapy, and exercise.

Additionally, the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis and CBD for managing trauma-related symptoms are gaining attention, with various routes of administration available to suit individual preferences and needs.

It's important to note that managing MST often requires a personalized and comprehensive approach, and individuals should work closely with their healthcare providers to develop a treatment plan tailored to their specific needs and circumstances.



  • Seeking support and engaging in self-care practices can be crucial components of the healing process.
  • Remember that healing is a journey, and progress may be gradual, but with the right support and perseverance, recovery is possible.


By exploring both traditional and alternative treatment options, individuals impacted by military sexual trauma can find the path to healing and reclaiming their well-being.