Holistic healing for vets: Helios Warriors gives veterans access to alternative therapies

Diane Baron is a Marine. Now on disability, she served her country more than 25 years ago and doesn’t talk much about the events that left her traumatized, unable to work. Her anxiety keeps her tense and unable to relax, she says.

Helios Warriors, a local nonprofit dedicated to providing affordable holistic treatments to veterans, provided the services she needed. “To get a massage prior to this [the founding of Helios Warriors] was out of the question,” she says. “The things I’ve been able to do here [at Helios] is like a luxury,” says Baron, who takes advantage of massages, chiropractic work and Jin Shin Jyutsu, which uses light touch to reduce stress and restore focus.

Helios offers an array of other services, too, such as peer-to-peer support groups and using so-called energy fields as a way to treat pain and anxiety.

The organization was created about five years ago by Gayle Sovinee and Deborah Nixon-Karistinos.  According to Helios Board of Directors Chairman Allen Brasington III, Sovinee began treating veterans out of her own home until about a year ago, when the service moved to a space on Haywood Street. “With the recent increase with our wars, folks kept coming forward and needed help,” says Brasington.

Helios sees more than 100 veterans per month. Some come from as far away as South Carolina and Tennessee to seek treatment, according to Brasington. Fees are based on income and typically range from $10-$40. Office Manager Ashley Pool estimates that about 90 percent of the veterans pay the lower amount — and at least one vet volunteers at the office to help pay for the services he gets.

Donations and fundraisers held throughout the year help make up the difference between what treatment costs and what veterans can pay. Pool also notes that Helios is working toward hosting a fundraiser this fall. And community members can donate to either Helios Warriors or the Sponsor a Veteran program. The latter program is simple: participants donate $5-$20 a month for a year to help pay for a veteran’s treatment. A $20 donation will pay for two sessions.

“If you see the sacrifices the men and women have made for this country, it’s just a joy to see folks that do get better and who do improve,” says Brasington.

With 25 volunteer practitioners, Helios specializes in alternative treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries and sexual trauma. “When things won’t work with [traditional treatment], sometimes alternative medicine does work. Almost always, rather,” says Brasington. One approach at Helios is emotion-code therapy, which includes answering open-ended questions with practitioners to get in touch — and ultimately release — various emotions associated with the veterans’ experiences. Research done by the U.S. Veterans Administration in 2011 suggests that alternative medicine like acupuncture, which is also offered through Helios, can help to treat conditions like PTSD.

After visiting Helios on and off for a few years, Baron says she’s using the service more and more. “I’m starting to feel like I could maybe feel safe, like that it’s not going to be a foreign concept.” For years, Baron says she has struggled with trauma and has found Helios to be something of a safe place. Treatment has given her more confidence, too. Says Baron, “I have a voice that needs to be heard.”

Helios Warriors is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. They can be reached at 299-0776, or at helioswarriors.org.

— Brandy Carl, brandy@mountainx.com, 251-1333, ext. 128.

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