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Overcoming Barriers to Meet Needs of Military Members and Veterans

Clinicians often wonder, “How can I provide therapy to active-duty military members and veterans?” There is an immense need for comprehensive mental health services among this population and the growing field of telehealth has allowed clinicians more access than ever before to provide services to military personnel, veterans, and their families.

Recently, Ray Barrett sat down for an interview with Dr. Mark Stebnicki, a mental health counselor and instructor for the Clinical Military Counseling Certificate Program, and Randy Phelps, CEO of Give An Hour- a nonprofit organization that provides comprehensive, no-cost mental health services to veterans.

When discussing barriers to meeting the needs of active duty military personnel, one of the largest barriers mentioned in the interview is maintaining knowledge around military culture and earning trust amongst clients. The standard mental health education program does not give clinicians sufficient training to work with the unique cultural differences that military life entails.

Dr. Stebnicki mentioned that an important piece of the Clinical Military Counseling Certificate program includes teaching clinicians how to “earn the circle of trust in order to get to a working alliance.” This competence around military culture can allow increased rapport between clients and service providers.

Randy Phelps added, “If you don’t take basic training in what it’s like to be in that person’s boots so that you have some degree of cultural competence, you will do harm.”

Research notes that service members might not access counseling for other reasons, including stigma around accessing treatment, limited time off, fear of losing security clearance, and potentially loss of job while accessing mental healthcare.

Some veterans also struggle to access mental healthcare due to physical distance from VA hospitals or mental health clinics. Since the pandemic, the increased use of telehealth has torn down the distance barriers to accessing service.

During the interview, Randy Phelps noted that Give An Hour is always ready to accept telehealth-equipped therapists to become volunteer providers for military members and veterans. If you are a service member or veteran seeking therapy, visit Give an Hour’s Website.

Listen in on the interview today!

By: Jessica Sweigert