“I quickly learned that no one really cares what you accomplished while you were in the military once you are a civilian…” .
Why counselling for veterans extends so much further than PTSD support
While there is a general assumption that it's trauma or PTSD that leads veterans to seek counselling or therapy after leaving the forces, experience has taught us that there are other, often more subtle, factors involved. This is not to discount the importance of support for trauma, but instead, to add to the picture and explore the other reasons that can lead to veterans feeling the need to seek the help of a therapist.
These reasons may include feelings of loneliness and isolation having been a part of, and then separated from, a tightly-knit group that feels as close, if not more so, than a family. Leaving such a safe environment, with its own rules, ways of communicating and behaviour, and then entering a world that has a vastly different way of interacting and behaving can be confusing and frustrating. Life in the military offers clear expectations, boundaries and structure, as well as punishments for those times when standards are not met. In the 'outside' world, these standards and rules are much more fluid and less clear cut. Learning about these new ways of being can take time, and having the chance to talk these things through with a therapist who understands the culture both in and out of the military can be of huge benefit.
“Awards and esteem mean nothing to most people outside of the military. This was the hardest part of the adjustment to civilian life for me…”.
There's also the reintegration into life outside of the military. For people who've spent most of their adult life in the forces, society can seem radically different, and this can, in turn, lead to feelings of alienation and loneliness. The job market is different; social media has become a preferred method of keeping in touch with friends and family, and communities can seem more fragmented and in many ways, less safe.
Life in the military offers a lot of support, such as medical care and help with debt or money worries. There's the peer network, as well as the coping strategies that develop – such as what can appear to be a rather inappropriate sense of humour – that only those in the military truly 'get'.
All of these factors can end up making day-to-day life seem challenging and harder to navigate through, and what can feel worse is that those people who have not been in the military don't understand any of this.
“You have to take solace in the fact that yesterday is yesterday and today is a day to create a new yesterday, a new memory. Every day is a chance to add to and build your legacy”.
Of course, trauma and PTSD are significant factors. Veterans may have joined the forces with existing trauma from life before which are then added to and compounded by what they see and experience in war zones and conflict situations. There is the seemingly inevitable guilt and regret that arises, all of which can be worked through in a safe and confidential counselling space.
Our therapist Karen Moore has experience of working with veterans. Having fled an abusive family situation at the age of sixteen to join the forces, she has first-hand experience of life in the military, as well as the challenge of the reintegration back into society, much of which is described above. Having begun a personal journey to heal her own 'demons', Karen became a qualified therapist and is now passionate about helping others in similar situations. If you would like to speak with Karen or book an appointment, then please call 01270 764003.