5 reasons military counseling is in demand
With nearly one in three U.S. servicemembers and veterans of overseas deployments suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, there’s a growing need for civilian mental health professionals trained to handle these cases, as well as other military-related psychological problems.
“Once a counselor has been educated about the specifics of military culture, they are able to treat military personnel for a variety of issues,” says Lynn Hall, EdD, dean of the College of Social Sciences and author of “Counseling Military Families: what Mental Health Professionals Need to Know.”
Here are five reasons military personnel might seek professional help:
Transitioning to civilian life is difficult.
Many people join the military at 18 and, after serving for a few years, are ready to leave but have no college education or career plans.
“Counselors can be very effective in helping these young vets create a game plan to transition to a civilian career,” Hall says. “They can also help veterans deal with some of the traumatic issues they were exposed to in the military and let them know how those traumas might affect them.”
Privacy is guaranteed.
For those who have decided to make the military their career, there’s often a social stigma associated with seeing a counselor on base, Hall explains. Many active-duty servicemembers are concerned about psychological treatment appearing on their records, so they don’t get help.
But if they can see a civilian counselor without fear of being reported to their commanders, she notes, they’ll more likely seek the psychological help they need.
Suffering can be long term.
It’s not just recent vets and active-duty military who need counselors trained to treat them. Anyone who was ever in the service — even 40 years ago — Hall points out, can benefit from discussing the past with a counselor.
“If you fought in the Vietnam War, that experience stays with you for your entire life,” she says. “And it’s beneficial for you to see a counselor who understands how that experience may be affecting you today.”
Disabled vets have specific needs.
Veterans who are injured physically have a long and sometimes arduous path to recovery, Hall says.
“Although they will initially be seen by medical personnel,” she explains, the more psychological transitions require repeat [counseling] sessions, “particularly if they are in a wheelchair or have lost a limb,” to help the vets and their families adjust to their new lives.
Military life is tough on families.
Even when a servicemember hasn’t seen combat, military families face ongoing challenges. For instance, because the families often move every two years, spouses must leave jobs, and kids have to change schools, Hall explains.
A trained counselor who understands these issues can suggest coping strategies to mitigate problems associated with the transitory lifestyle. “These issues can create tension and require family counseling,” Hall notes, “regardless of whether there has ever been a traumatic wartime event.”