Veteran Larry Reese says, “Motion is lotion,” which is a saying he picked up in a pain management class at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa, Florida. “If you’re sitting still, you’re feeling the pain, but if you keep moving, it helps you to deal with it. It also helps if you understand pain, then you can learn to deal with it.”

Reese has gained a better understanding of his pain and overall health through Whole Health services, including the THRIVE Program, the Mind Body Medicine Skills Group, and services such as acupuncture and Whole Health Coaching.

Reese served in the Army from 1979 to 1999 as a Legal Specialist at Ft. Hood, Texas, after spending time at Wiesbaden, Germany, and ending up at MacDill AFB in Tampa. A 2013 knee surgery and chronic back pain led him to VA Pain Management classes, eventually finding his way to the 12-week THRIVE program. THRIVE stands for Transforming Health and Resilience through Integration of Values-based Experiences.

Learn more about how Whole Health can benefit you.

Group discussions on wide range of topics

Participants are encouraged to share their thoughts and experiences with a group. Each session includes discussions on topics ranging from work-life purpose, spiritual and financial health, sleep and restoration, healthy relationships and stress reduction.

Reese also participated in the 8-week Mind-Body Medicine class, which offers participants a variety of mind practices and techniques to manage stress and live a healthier lifestyle.

Because of his work, Reese has learned a lot more than pain management. He credits Nationally Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach Renae Fordyce with helping him understand how to manage emotions and interactions with others.

“Everyone’s situation is different, but it’s nice to know you’re not the only one dealing with certain feelings, Fordyce said. “Putting some light on the feelings helps you more than holding it all in.”

Taught twin granddaughters breathing skills

Since working with his coach, Reese has lost 25 pounds. He still goes to the gym, and is now learning new cooking skills. “I want to better myself and Renae is helping me to do that,” he said. “She’s always there for me.” He also says his sleep has improved; he even taught the breathing and meditation skills he learned to his twin granddaughters.

Whole Health Coach Fordyce believes it was Reese’s commitment to the work of Whole Health that has made the difference for him. “Mr. Reese approaches every day with determination to live a better life,” she said. “For every decision we make, there is always an option. It is up to us to choose which option to follow: The one that makes us stronger or the one that will leave us in a time of despair.”

Work with Veterans one-on-one in many ways

VA has trained close to 2,000 staff to be Whole Health coaches across the VA Health Care System. Coaches work with Veterans one-on-one and sometimes in groups to:

  • Develop a personalized health plan that is based on what matters most to the Veteran. The plan is based on the Veteran’s own goals, values, preferences and lifestyle.
  • Partner with the Veteran by proactively taking action toward behavior change that is present and future oriented.
  • Recognize that health is much broader than the absence of disease. The emphasis is on health enhancements and strengths rather than disorders and weaknesses.
  • Seek to support the Veteran in achieving his or her standard of optimal health that takes into account the mental, physical and social well-being.

For more information on Whole Health and how you can get started on your journey, visit

By Andrea Young is a FIT consultant for the Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation

Share this story

Published on Jul. 19, 2021

Estimated reading time is 3.1 min.

Views to date: 189

One Comment

  1. Ana Bouza July 19, 2021 at 11:02 am

    The mindfulness process to help with pain appealed to me personally because I’m so ready to evaluate myself and how frustrated I’m feeling at my present lifestyle.

    I wish that you made printed copies of the materials as I lack the ability to print the documents. I would be willing to buy a binder with the self assessment materials I could document my personal information.

Comments are closed.

More Stories

  • Significant progress has been made toward identifying, preventing, and helping those who experience domestic violence, but there is still work to be done.

  • 2022 VHA Shark Tank competition finalists will present their pitches at the Innovation Experience in October.

  • VA has simplified and streamlined the application process for medical debt relief, allowing Veterans better access. Apply for and receive medical debt relief now.