Dr. James Bender, DCoE clinical psychologist on January 24, 2013
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Duncan Brennan
Dr. James Bender is a former Army psychologist who deployed to Iraq as the brigade psychologist for the 1st Cavalry Division 4th Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Hood, Texas. During his deployment he traveled through Southern Iraq, from Basra to Baghdad. He writes a monthly post for the DCoE Blog on psychological health concerns related to deployment and being in the military.
How do you make a soldier run away screaming? Suggest therapy.
Although this is an exaggeration, the truth is most service members aren’t open to the idea of talking to a stranger about personal issues. When I’ve suggested therapy, responses have ranged from anger to disbelief and often back to anger, with the assumption that I considered them “weak” or “broken.” Far too many service members view a psychological health concern as a character flaw instead of what it is, a treatable condition. Therapy isn’t for “weak” or “broken” people. It’s for people who recognize a problem, address it and then overcome it.
It’s too bad that more people don’t recognize that therapy can do a lot of good, and it doesn’t necessarily require long periods of time. Many individuals experience improvements in a relatively short period. Take a look at a few examples from my case files that are typical of therapeutic results.
I could go on but my point is that each person had their quality of life improve significantly because of psychotherapy. Social relationships and general moods were better and their ability to function in different situations improved (going shopping without intense nervousness; talking to people without getting angry). Each person was able to perform better in their service duties because of their time spent in therapy. Maybe most importantly, they gained insight into the struggles of some of their buddies. Several patients have told me that they treat their fellow service members differently now that they really understand what PTSD and depression are all about.
Reasons to engage in therapy are as varied as the people who engage in it. If you think you have a psychological health condition and it’s negatively impacting how you live your life, why not explore psychotherapy or other options that may be helpful? Therapy is a problem-solving exercise. Working with your therapist you’ll develop well-defined goals and a plan to achieve those goals. Progress usually follows. If it doesn’t, read this blog post for ideas on what to do.