Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Getting Mental Health Services without Insurance

Nothing - and I mean nothing—feels more frustrating than talking to a Veteran who is ready to get the help they need to reclaim their lives from PTSD and then finding out that their insurance does not cover mental health or that their health insurance deductible is exorbitant. If we are not enrolled in the VA for health services, it can take months for service connection to get approved. In short, it’s a goat rope.

Today, we’re going to talk about how to get the help you need to recover from PTSD now. I am focusing on networks that have national reach, and this list is hardly exhaustive.

1.       The Vet Center. I think this is the VA’s best kept secret. All you need for help with a Vet Center is a DD-214; no service connection or enrollment is required and services are free of cost. I work regularly with our local Vet Center staff, and I find them impressive AF. Many of them are Combat Vets themselves, and the services and overall attitudes are very Vet-centric. They have appointments available after business hours and they serve Veterans—and their family members. Since Vet Centers are part of the VA system, their clinicians are well trained in Evidence-Based Treatments for PTSD. Their mandate is to serve Combat Vets, Military Sexual Trauma (MST) survivors, and their family members. Get more info: https://www.vetcenter.va.gov/

2.       Cohen Veterans Network. This is a non-profit national mental health network that launched in 2016 to serve Veterans and family members. Anyone who has served in the Armed Forces, regardless of role, discharge status, or combat experience is eligible for mental health services; this includes National Guard and Reservists. I have worked with therapists out of the San Antonio, Texas office and they are really, really talented and dedicated. Many of the therapists are Combat Veterans. It is not affiliated with the VA. There are about 20 locations as of this post’s date across the U.S. https://www.cohenveteransnetwork.org/clinics/

3.       Give an Hour. Give an Hour serves anyone who served in the U.S. Military for any length of time, with any branch, and any active, reserve or discharge status. The website matches Veterans who need services with clinicians who volunteer to “give an hour” of therapy free of cost. Because of telehealth, Veterans can see a counselor anywhere in their state making this a good option for those who will consider working online. https://giveanhour.org/military/

4.       Employee Assistance Program. Hear me out—I think this is one of the most underutilized work benefits and it is widely available to almost anyone employed, even on a part-time basis. EAPs are part of many benefits packages, and a call to your Human Resources folks will give you more information. EAPs offer free short-term counseling to employees and family members, and the EAP will usually set you up with a counselor, making it user friendly. The EAPs that I work with give clients between five and ten therapy sessions with no cost or co-pay. When I work with clients who have high deductibles before their insurance kicks in, I encourage them to go through their EAP. Moreover, we can get a lot done in five or ten sessions.

Your local community may have resources also, so a Google search like “free military counseling near me” may turn up more ideas. Also, when talking to mental health professionals, ask for their recommendations. Folks who work in mental health all tend to hang out together, and we are usually very connected into our local community resources. If at a loss, find a social worker in a government agency or hospital and ask them. In my experience, I have found that social workers have a unique super power: knowing things. They are just more resourceful than the rest of us.

Most importantly, don’t ever be afraid to call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255, call 911, or go to your nearest emergency room if you are feeling suicidal. I know that health insurance can leave us feeling fucked, but NOTHING is more important than your life.

If you know of more resources for Veterans to get mental health services, we want to know – please leave a comment below.

*****

If you believe change is possible, you want to change, and you are willing to do the work, you absolutely CAN get your life back.”

The best way to start is to identify the problem. Download my free workbook and take a No-Sh*t assessment of where you are at today.

 

 


Monday, June 7, 2021

Spreading the Word: Moral Injury & PTSD




Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Ben Killoy on the Military Veteran Dad Podcast, and we spoke at length about Moral Injury.

When I first came upon research on Moral Injury by Brett Litz and his team, I was floored. I thought, how is it that no one is talking about this? That included other psychotherapists like me.

Ben and I spoke at length about how the difference between PTSD and Moral Injury. PTSD is rooted in fear—our brain performs mental acrobatics in order to keep us alive. Moral Injury, however, feels more nefarious because it is rooted in shame—it stems from events that violated our own deeply rooted expectations of ourselves and others. 

Moral Injury is born in the “should”—how someone “should be” treated or how things “should work”—in war and in life. These are the things we (or others) did or didn’t do—the things we can’t unfuck.

Research on Moral Injury tidily puts these into three categories: combat loss, perpetration, and leadership betrayal. We spoke at length about these three categories and what Evidence-Based Treatments help.

After the podcast, both Ben and I heard from several of his listeners. They expressed their surprise that Moral Injury is not a topic more widely discussed and were extremely thankful that we broached the topic.



One of these interactions has really stuck with me this week. A Silver Star recipient took the time to connect with us on our Facebook page. It was an honor to learn about his story and to know that, after listening, he has discovered a new tool to unlock his combat trauma. 

No one becomes a mental health provider for the money or the fame - but knowing that other Veterans are impacted by our work is far more valuable. Ben and I decided that we will do it again. This time, to really engage with our audiences, I’m reaching out to you. I want your ideas, feedback, and to know the questions you want answered.

Send your questions and feedback to me ContactUs@thesoldiersguide.com

Or, post your comments on my Facebook Page HERE

This is our Mission: a call to arms offering facts, empathy, and step-by-step instruction for Service Members to get the help they need, help family members to understand the battlefield, and connect civilians with a Warrior culture.

THANK YOU for caring about what we are doing and spreading the word about PTSD, Moral Injury, and recovery. Stay tuned for updates so you don’t miss this podcast when it goes live.


Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Taking Time to Unfuck Ourselves: Guided Meditation


2020 wasn’t a great year, and 2021 isn’t looking any better for some of us. The triggers have been endless, too: a world-wide pandemic, home schooling, racial violence, isolation, storms, natural disasters, and let’s not forget politics. And all of this has a psychological toll on our bodies and our brains. Friends, 2021 is kicking normies off the ledge left and right, so it is 100% okay to feel however you feel right now. Whether you’re feeling angry, anxious, cagey, or just WTAF, it’s okay. 

Let’s take time to talk about ways to cope and try to get as close to “normal” as we can, whatever “normal” means.

Guided Meditation

Now calm the fuck down; I’m not getting all woo-woo on you. In my opinion, guided meditation is the single easiest thing we can do to self-adjust; it’s easy to do, easy to access resources (free on YouTube!), and takes as little as 5-10 minutes. We can do it in our car, on our work break, or before bed to unplug from a hectic day.

The purpose of guided meditation is to slow our minds down and relax, and it’s perfect for beginners who have never tried meditation or mindfulness. Guided meditation is a lot like listening to an audio book. A soothing voice tells us exactly what to visualize and how to wind down, and there is usually some relaxing music in the background. 

Rather than pushing intrusive thoughts away, guided meditation encourages our brains to replace those thoughts with something more relaxing and to stay anchored in the present moment. Guided meditation takes the guesswork out of the mechanics; all we have to do is follow the suggestions of the soothing voice. Sometimes this is guided breathing or visualizing a relaxing setting. It’s too easy.

It’s Free and Plentiful 

Guided meditation recordings used to be hard to find, but not so anymore. My go-to is YouTube: search for “guided meditation for relaxation” – or for sleep, or for anxiety, or for stress, or for anything you need in the moment. Take a look at the length of the recordings as they come up. Some are 5 minutes and some are 8 hours (to encourage sleep, for example). Give a listen to the recordings; they vary in terms of voice, music, and content. If you try one and hate it, there are dozens of others you can try. I have my favorites saved and use the YouTube app on my phone to access them wherever I roam. 

Help with Sleep

For me, guided meditation has been a godsend in terms of peaceful sleep. I have a tough time winding down my brain at the end of the day and regularly use guided meditation to help me put those racing thoughts in a drawer to open again tomorrow. 

In conclusion, guided meditation is too easy not to try. So give it a go and let me know what works for you.

*****

If you believe change is possible, you want to change, and you are willing to do the work, you absolutely CAN get your life back.”

The best way to start is to identify the problem. Download my free workbook and take a No-Sh*t assessment of where you are at today.