A world first veterans’ recovery program treats PTSD and substance use issues at same time 13 April

The Buttery

A new free treatment program that is the first of its kind in the world is aimed at reducing the impact of PostTraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Substance Use Disorder (SUD) for veterans.

The pilot program, commencing on 3 May, is being offered free of charge to eligible former personnel of the Australian Army, Navy and Air Force.

The Veterans’ COPE Recovery Program, takes a new approach by treating both PTSD and SUD at the same time, rather than as separate issues.

The program is fully-evidence-based and provided by the long-established mental health and substance use treatment organisation, The Buttery.

The free program is funded by the Department of Communities and Justice NSW and supported by NSW Health.

The developers of the COPE program at the Medical University of South Carolina, USA have trained therapists at The Buttery working in conjunction with researcher, Professor Katherine Mills at the University of Sydney.

It is being offered as a one-off pilot from 3 May, 2021.

“There is a tendency among people with PTSD to self-medicate and Substance Use Disorder can be a consequence of this. This program takes a unique approach and there is evidence showing the value of treating both concurrently,” said Buttery CEO Leone Crayden.

“Working closely with the therapists, participants support each other in a peaceful, healing environment. As well as counselling, everyone is encouraged to take gentle exercise and enjoy nutritious chef cooked meals. Group therapy, psycho-education, meditation, yoga, Pilates, massage, swimming in the pool and other activities are available to promote holistic recovery”, Ms Crayden said.

The residential part of the program is held at a comfortable retreat on a peaceful acreage near Murwillumbah in northern NSW.

The residential stay is followed by three months of after-care when participants return to the community. Aftercare is conducted by phone or video conferencing (Skype, ZOOM or similar).

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To be eligible participants should be:

Experiencing PTSD currently.

Affected by a substance use disorder.

Committed to remaining abstinent from substance use while in the program and to have undertaken a detoxification program prior to attending (if required).

A previous member of the Australian Defence Force (Army, Navy, Air Force).

Participants require a referral from a psychiatrist. Details about the referral and the program are available from The Buttery’s Intake Team, 02 6687 1111 (Mon-Fri 9 to 4.30 AESDT) or email

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