CBT can help veterans re-integrate into their communities after deployment.

At Beck Institute, we believe that our military veterans should receive excellent mental health care both during and after deployment. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) has been demonstrated to be an effective treatment for many of the mental health issues frequently seen in military and veteran populations: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, substance use disorder, and suicide.

Coping with Trauma

CBT for PTSD includes either Prolonged Exposure (PE), Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), or both. PE involves addressing memories of a traumatic experience and engaging in real life situations that individuals may have been avoiding due to associated trauma. For example, if a veteran suffering from PTSD was involved in an enemy attack while driving, he may avoid driving after returning home. Avoiding driving may impact his ability to work, see friends, or engage in meaningful activities. During PE, the therapist may work with the individual to discuss the traumatic memory, rather than avoiding it. They may also help the individual return to driving by gradually exposing him to the experience of driving (i.e. first sitting in a car while parked, then starting the ignition while parked, then driving a short distance around the neighborhood, then driving to a nearby coffee shop, etc.) This not only helps the individual process the traumatic memory, but helps improve quality of life by allowing him to return to valued activities and connect with others.

CPT involves teaching individuals new ways to think about a traumatic experience, and evaluating unhelpful beliefs about the trauma. For example, a veteran who was present when a friend was gravely wounded may believe, “I should have done more to save her,” or “It should have been me instead.” These thoughts and beliefs can lead to strong negative emotions, contributing to decreased wellbeing, avoidance of the traumatic memory, and lower engagement in meaningful activities. CPT can help the individual evaluate those beliefs and determine whether they are accurate or helpful. Together with the therapist, the individual can create a more realistic or helpful set of beliefs (e.g., “I did everything I could.”)

Supporting Veterans

Veterans who struggle with suicidal thoughts benefit from a focus on restricting access to means (i.e. locking a firearm in a safe and giving the key to a trusted friend), making a plan to cope with suicidal thoughts and feelings when they arise, and identifying reasons for living. Veterans who struggle with substance use can find it helpful to evaluate the costs and benefits of using, identify alternate ways to cope with negative emotions, and learn techniques to manage cravings and urges. Other CBT techniques can be helpful for veterans, even if they were never engaged in combat. Many military personnel find it difficult to re-integrate into their communities after their service and CBT can help them evaluate thoughts and beliefs related to military culture and lifestyle.

How Beck Institute Helps

Beck Institute offers training in CBT to clinicians who work with military, veterans, and their families through our Training for Organizations program. One organization, Cohen Veterans Network (CVN), has been training its staff through Beck Institute since 2018. Beck Institute has trained over 200 CVN clinicians in CBT theory and practice, helping them improve the care they deliver to their military clients. In addition, Beck Institute established its Military and Veterans Suicide Prevention Training Fund to help clinicians treating U.S. military, veterans, and their families afford CBT training. Clinicians who work with military populations can apply this scholarship to any two- or three-day workshop or on-demand training in a variety of topics, including CBT for depression, anxiety, substance use, PTSD, and more. We are proud to be able to support clinicians who help our veterans feel better and stay healthy.