Working With Military Service Members and Veterans: A Field Report of Obstacles and Opportunities
By Ingrid Dinter
The first few moments of an encounter with a veteran may be crucial in establishing a therapeutic alliance. A posture of respect and acknowledgment of their service provides a good start. Political observations should be avoided. Many service members identify with the archetypal warrior, laying down their lives to protect others and have a sense of betrayal that their purpose has been interrupted. They are often reluctant to talk about their experiences, or engage with a mental health practitioner, because of similar past experiences that did not bring relief. EFT is useful in this context because it can be used without the veteran describing the emotionally triggering event. Veterans may experience these as real, present-time events, not as memories distant in time. Service members may also be afraid that their mental health symptoms may make them appear weak to their comrades and superiors, potentially damaging their careers. Symptoms like flashbacks and nightmares often occur when healthcare providers are unavailable, and a portable self-help method like EFT is useful at such times. EFT also provides a coping technique to families of service providers and improves resilience. Successful implementation in a military culture requires sensitivity to these issues.