This Huffington Post Article is very important and sheds light on a very significant issue, it is long, but please take the time to read it.
How has the controversy surrounding the wait time to receive services affected the credibility of the Veterans Administration?
The short answer is greatly. With that said there is a prevailing stigma associated with the VA for the quality of service provided for veterans. I say stigma because I know first-hand the dedication and commitment of many providers who work for the VA. But the system that manages the VA is rife with bureaucratic processes and procedures which limit access to services vets may receive. In full disclosure I do have a vested interest, as I am both a veteran and a Licensed Professional Counselor who has run into this bureaucracy finding it daunting to say the least.
As the investigations onto these allegations against the VA continue, the depth of the problem will be revealed. As a Navy Veteran who served from 1972-1992 I have my own thoughts regarding these issues. I am skeptical that the VA has the resources on hand to deliver the services required for our nation’s Veterans; the sheer numbers are staggering. By their own estimates the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 31% of Vietnam veterans, 10% of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans, 11% of Afghanistan war veterans and 20% of Iraqi war veterans all suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There are potentially 3.6 million veterans with service-connected disabilities.
The quality of services provided is inconsistent in the VA system, depending on the regional location As a provider of Mental Health Services in the private sector, I experience frustration when vets are referred into my practice. The referral process is ambiguous and unyielding. If, as a professional, I am frustrated with the process then I can only imagine the frustration the individual Veteran experiences, especially if they are in the middle of a crisis associated with their condition. The VA requirement that only hires Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) to provide mental health services to veterans has been lifted. However, the bias against hiring Licensed Professional Counselor’s as providers to deliver mental health service to Veterans remains.
Recent Congressional interest in the service to Veteran’s is encouraging; however, I believe that once the dust settles that commitment will wane as it has in the past. Once the politicians have made political fodder of the poor service our Nation’s Veterans receive and they have made political points, the problem will persist. There will be no impact or lasting solution. Because it will take money to fix the problem, Congress will be slow to act.
It is imperative that Veterans receive the benefit of all the professional resources available, both through the VA and within the community within which they reside. Veterans serve their country with honor, integrity and valor and it is time the country to give back to them in kind. They deserve a quality, fluid, and responsive network committed to their well-being and adaptable to their needs.
The VA is a microcosm of the greater culture of health care and, like the greater health care system, the VA is broken. The opportunity in this terrible situation of the wait-list failure is that we can change the whole process from beginning to end to include the VA as a valuable member of a team committed to the care of Veterans, but it need not be the only player on the team.
My interest in EMDR started with a conversation with my brother-in-law who is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker practicing EMDR. As we discussed the different struggles that presented by our clients, he mentioned an effective intervention for their struggles, EMDR; and it effectiveness with clients who have experienced trauma.
It had seemed to me, as I treated clients who had experienced trauma with talk therapy, that the client sometimes experienced a certain level of re-traumatization. It seemed to me that there had to be a more effective way to desensitize, deescalate or calm their emotional reaction to the memory, as my brother-in-law described how EMDR worked, my questions were addressed. EMDR seemed to be the treatment modality I was seeking.
Still a little skeptical, I looked into training in EMDR and attended training in EMDR of Greater Washington, D.C. During the training the workshop participants use the EMDR protocol, and I decided to “go there” and face some of my own issues. While I was still skeptical, it made sense to test the process and use the modality for myself.
During my time serving in the United States Navy I had experienced some trauma and had been carrying it with me for many years, angry outbursts, irritability, and nightmares were my emotional experiences that were associated with those memories. Using the eight-step protocol my fellow trainee acted as the as the therapist, and I was the client. I targeted a real picture of that experience and, in that training, I cleared the ongoing emotional responses associated with that traumatic event. More importantly, my symptoms dissipated and actually stopped. From that point on I was all-in when it came to using EMDR because my experience of the process was so effective within a short period of time.
EMDR is very effective with anxiety, phobias (fear of flying, fear of driving, being in crowded stores). I also found that it is effective in working with addictions, and compulsive behaviors.
I am amazed at how the treatment process allows the brain to do what it needs to do – heal. EMDR gets the therapist and the client out of the way of the healing process. The healing process is actually that traumatic memory being unstuck and thereby able to access the adaptive information that is available in our brain and desensitize our reactivity to the event.
After spending two years in Virginia, I’ve returned to Colorado to start M2 Solutions, a private therapy practice. While in Virgina I had the honor and privilege of working with active military, veterans and folks in government service who were exposed to traumatic events in the field. In addition, I became certified in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) a treatment modality for reprocessing trauma.
This amazing tool allows people to reprocess trauma using an innovative technique that involves both sides of the brain. The desensitizing piece reduces the emotional reactivity to the memory of the event. Amazingly this peace alone gives the person a sense of control and relief that they thought they had lost. The reprocessing piece addresses the negative belief that is causing the ongoing problems in their life.
EMDR has many uses. I am excited to be back in Colorado and in future posts I’ll continue to talk about how EMDR works.