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Support for veterans – what to consider when choosing a therapist

If you are a service person or veteran feeling in need of emotional or psychological support, then this article may help you to decide what sort of therapy may be beneficial to you.

In many instances, veterans experience the same or similar issues that exist in the general population: stress, anxiety, loneliness and isolation, depression, bereavement and relationship difficulties. For someone leaving the military, there can be additional considerations such as adjusting to a new culture or way of life outside of life in the services. These can often lead veterans into selecting therapists that have been trained in this area. Naturally, it can feel easier to talk to someone who has 'been there', who knows and who understands the military culture without having to have it explained.

Our therapist Karen Moore – an ex-military person herself – has written in her profile on this site about the challenges that people who are leaving or who have already retired from the forces face, and how this can impact upon their emotional and physical well-being. Far from being only about trauma, Karen rightly highlights that veterans experience a full spectrum of issues, from loneliness and isolation at having been separated from a tightly-knit group of comrades to addictions, difficulties finding meaningful work, and even day-to-day communication with the people they come into contact with. Having left what can mostly feel like a safe environment – where the rules are clear, and everyone knows their place – life outside of the military may seem confusing and difficult to navigate.

If you are currently considering seeking a therapist, it may be a good idea to take some time to think what would be most useful for you right now. A therapist such as Karen, who has first-hand experience of military life, can offer an understanding of the issues you are currently experiencing beyond what someone who has not served can. They may not know precisely how it feels for you, but they are one step closer to the experience. Similarly to how only someone who has experienced childbirth can understand how it feels, or someone who has lost a child can better understand the pain of child bereavement.

Conversely, if you are seeking therapy because you are struggling to integrate with people who have not been in the military, then a therapist without direct experience may be worth considering. A non-judgemental, empathic experience with a nonmilitary person may provide you with a positive experience and a solid foundation upon which to build other relationships in your life, at home and in the workplace (if relevant to you). Therapy can provide you with the opportunity to explore how you are feeling, gain awareness and perspective, but crucially, offers you the opportunity to be heard and accepted for exactly who you are.

And time and again, clients who visit The Hope Street Centre feed back to us that it is the relationship of trust that they build with their therapist that is the difference been successful therapy and not. More than anything else, we would advise that you take the time, and make contact with a couple of select therapists whose skills and experience/background match with what you are seeking. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and trust your instincts.

The key is to take the time to consider what you are seeking and which experience may be beneficial to you at this point.

Below is a list of therapists who have experience of working with veterans who have not themselves served:

  • Maurice Tomkinson – has experience of working with veterans on a number of issues including, but not limited to, PTSD
  • Jessica Woolliscroft – offers support for trauma, including EMDR
  • Gareth Williams – offers a mindfulness and compassion based approach to dealing with many issues including anxiety, depression and chronic pain.

Alternatively, Karen Moore, our veterans counsellor can be found by clicking here.

Should you wish to talk to us to discuss your options further then please call 01270 764003.

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