Jill Stephenson lost her only child, Corporal Benjamin S. Kopp, in combat in Afghanistan 2009. Ben saved the lives of six of his fellow soldiers before suffering a gunshot wound that claimed his life eight days later.
For nine years, Jill, a single mother, suffered in silence. Outwardly, she worked to preserve Ben’s legacy, becoming an advocate for organ donation, as Ben’s organs brought new life to 60 people. But her heart was heavy.
Finally, last year, Jill tried Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART), an innovative, evidence-based treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and trauma. Unlike traditional talk therapy, ART does not require participants to relive or retell their troubling memories.
Jill watched as a clinician trained in ART therapy performed a series of hand motions while talking her through the process of substituting positive images for painful memories. In just six sessions, Jill felt remarkably better. And she had learned techniques to help her cope with distressing thoughts in the future.
“You can take it with you,” Jill said of the techniques she learned from ART. “You leave with a toolbox you can use in your everyday life.”
To mark the tenth anniversary of Ben’s death, Jill is seeking to share this groundbreaking therapeutic technique with others. She believes that ART could be hugely helpful to veterans, many of whom suffer from combat-based PTSD. Jill has organized weeklong healing retreats for other Gold Star mothers.
Now Jill is looking to share her story with a larger audience. “I believe it’s my mission to teach others that survival is possible,” she said. “To give people hope.”