Combat stress is an issue that concerns all healthcare professionals and military officers who support and facilitate military readiness. When YOU reflect on the phenomenon we call Combat stress, do you consider it:
An undesirable consequence of war?
A disabling force affecting our military men and women? OR
A source of growth and strength voluntarily sought by those with hardy attitudes?
A challenging test one takes to affirm and strengthen personal values for success in life?
If you spend any time talking candidly with a Veteran or active duty Service member who has deployed during recent military campaigns, you will shortly determine that they are generally hypervigilant and risk averse. As a clinical psychologist working with Service members and Veterans who have deployed in support of OIF, OEF, etc., I continue to realize anecdotal interventions to help address and decrease the negative impact and/or influence of disruptive post-deployment adjustment issues resulting from deployment experiences (to include trauma experiences). This blog entry will address “risk aversion” (i.e., the post-deployed service member’s or veteran’s tendency to avoid things that, from their perspective, might put their safety or security at risk such as being in crowds, not having control of a situation, going places without plan, etc…). This “protective” avoidance is extended to the Service member or Veteran’s family and/or loved ones and consequently, has a significant impact on their lives as well.
While every provider may experience some initial discomfort with implementing an unfamiliar treatment, I am often surprised with how resistant many mental health providers are toward learning and implementing evidence-based treatments. An article on this topic by Scott Lilienfeld and colleagues demonstrates this resistance, reasons for it, and potential ways to work through it. I believe providers on all sides of this issue should read this article as a way to both consider another perspective and to clarify their own opinions.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of those tree-hugging vegans who wants to bring their dog to work every day. Me too. Full disclosure: I wrote this blog mostly so I could watch cat videos on company time. But perhaps you have more noble aspirations, such as understanding the current state of research on animal-assisted therapy for military clients. A quick Internet search suggests you’re not alone.