Q: You have been with HVAF for more than 7 years. How have the years of helping veterans helped you to where now as the therapist for the veterans we serve?
A: I think with the experience being at HVAF for so many years working with veterans in transitional housing, it gave me the ability to really see early on a lot of times a veteran – or any individual – their mental health can very easily affect all aspects of their life.
We see that a lot with our veterans that come through our program, they are all struggling in some capacity. And one of the biggest things we try to tell them is while we can get you housed, we have to address all of the other issues that are continuously getting you to the point that you need our services.
Q: What are your therapy sessions like?
A: Several of the veterans who have come in to meet with me, a lot of them have that initial bias of what mental health treatment looks like. Whether it’s from talking to other individuals or their own personal experiences that may not have been what they wanted. And so what I really strive for is to provide them with a better experience than what they previously had.
I tell each one of them when they come in to meet with me that each of their experiences is going to be a little bit different based on what their immediate needs are. I always reassure them that they’re in the driver’s seat. They get to decide how their treatment looks, what they want to talk about and how they want to approach it.
Because a lot of them have come and told me they’ve had people who have just said these are the things that you need to do to fix yourself and they may not necessarily agree with those things or they might not be in the right stage of their life to hear those things. And so a lot of times when I meet with them it’s more validating where they are in that moment and always reassuring them I am just giving you guiding tools. What you do with that when you leave this room is entirely up to you, but knowing that your actions are going to continue to affect the consequences of your life.
Q: Why is therapy necessary?
A: No person is free of any type of trauma or any stressor in life. Veterans in particular have a lot more stressors. They’re exposed to more trauma than the average person. A lot of that can manifest in early childhood, the military may exacerbate those symptoms. I always try to tell them mental health is not one size fits all, it doesn’t discriminate, and you always need to be mindful of your mental health because it affects every aspect of your life.
Even if it’s just coming in and talking to somebody, and just to be able to vent because a lot of these veterans they don’t have any other support, no one to lean on or talk to that will talk to them and be free of that judgment.
That’s why I try really hard to create a safe environment for them to where they feel like they can come in and be themselves and not have to worry that the person on the other side is judging them.
Q: What is a takeaway for someone reading this that is not familiar with therapy and veteran mental health?
A: I think one thing I would want any person to take away from this is that everyone needs help in some capacity. There is nothing wrong with seeking out help. It doesn’t mean that it’s a weakness it just means that you’re human.
Mental health doesn’t discriminate and there isn’t anything wrong with going and asking for help. A lot of our veterans don’t want to appear as though they need help. They’ve always had an image of being strong, they’re people who have defended our country and so to say I need help, a lot of them don’t want to because of that negative stigma that’s attached to it.
Moving forward, it would be wonderful if people in general just realize there’s nothing wrong, you’re not a weak person if you ask for help. It means that you want to take control of your life and I think that’s a very admirable trait to have.
If you are struggling with your mental health and/or in crisis, please call 9-8-8 and press 1 or text 838255.