Veteran works with BYU to learn more about recreational therapy and coping with PTSD

Posted at 10:02 PM, Jul 26, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-27 00:02:17-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- What could be more relaxing than fly fishing on one of Utah’s blue ribbon trout streams?

It turns out fishing and tying flies can even calm the stress of war-ravaged veterans.

After a year of combat duty in Iraq with the 116th Engineer Company, Warren Price returned home with post-traumatic stress disorder.

He said he had flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety and thoughts of suicide. He said he felt like his world was spiraling downward until his wife suggested he go fly-fishing with one of her high school friends, who also happened to be a veteran with a disability.

Price said the first time he stepped into the water, it changed his life.

"I felt like the water embraced me and held me tight, and I could finally start noticing other things,” he said. “I could notice the sound of the wind as it goes through the leaves. I could notice the sights that you see, the birds flying by. What's most comforting is the sound of the water, especially when you're standing in it."

Neil Lundberg, an associate professor at Brigham Young University, studied Price’s case and said the “wow” moment for him was realizing that the recreation experience can be even more powerful than the traumatic experience.

"When he got to engage in fly fishing and other recreational activities, he really started to feel a reduction in his stress,” he said.

Lundberg said it wasn't just the fly-fishing, but tying flies--which took so much concentration that Price couldn't focus on his war experiences.

Resources like the Wounded Warrior Project and Park City's National Ability Center offer veterans and others the chance to ride horses, ski, snowboard, climb and hike.

Once Price learned to cope with his own trauma, he wanted to help other veterans. So Price went to BYU and now has a master's degree and is a licensed recreational therapist, allowing him to better help other troubled veterans.

“He’s been there, done that,” Lundberg said. “He knows what it feels like to be experiencing the stress symptoms, to be at the end of his rope, and that makes him a more powerful practitioner that he can actually give back."

Lundberg is now working with the Wounded Warrior Project to learn more about the power of recreational therapy for vets.