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As soldiers return home, demand for psychologists with military experience grows

During the last decade, approximately 1.6 million U.S. troops have been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, and a 2008 report from the RAND Corp. estimates that more than 26 percent will return from combat with mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

But when veterans arrive home they may face a shortage of mental health care professionals with the necessary skills to address specific psychological problems stemming from military service. In response, some veterans organizations are taking steps to implement peer counseling, and a new program was recently created to train clinicians in the psychology of combat. From a Los Angeles Times article:

A counselor to ex-soldiers for 35 years, Ray Parrish, 58, a self-described angry veteran, sees the problem on a daily basis. He is the benefits director for Vietnam Veterans Against the War in Chicago and helps those trying to navigate the bureaucracy of the Veterans Administration.

"There quite literally are not enough people that have knowledge of veterans' experiences and who have the professional expertise to provide them the health that they need," Parrish said. "That means that all of the veterans get inadequate care."

A new attempt to fill the gap is coming from the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago, which this fall is launching a military specialization track for its doctorate of clinical psychology program. Joe Troiani, a faculty member and Navy veteran who created the track, said the school hopes to prepare students for the specific psychological problems that stem from military service. They will take such classes as the psychology of terrorism, and psychology of combat and conflict.

Despite such efforts, Parrish and others quoted in the story worry the health care system is unprepared to handle the care of returning troops and their family members.

Previously: Helping brain-injured soldiers return – safely – to the battlefield, Are veterans with PTSD at higher risk for medical illnesses?, Study shows high rates of substance use disorders among veterans with mental illness and Can training soldiers to meditate combat PTSD?
Photo by The U.S. Army

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