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Counselors Renew Their Focus On
Helping Iran and Afghan War Vets
Many Americans are shocked to learn that some 2.5 million of their fellow citizens have seen military service in Iraq or Afghanistan over the past decade. According to Department of Defense data, more than 400,000 members of the military have done three or more deployments to these war areas. It is an enormous number of people, including more than 670,000 veterans who have qualified for disability status.
What is equally surprising to many people is to learn how many of these veterans’ needs are only being partially met upon their return to this country. While those with physical disabilities can and do find considerable help available, many others with psychological, financial or family issues are often at a loss as to where to get needed help.
Counseling assistance for veterans, active military personnel and their families was an area of major focus at the American Counseling Association’s national conference in Cincinnati which was held last week. A number of educational sessions were offered to the more than 3,100 counseling professionals attending with the aim of helping counselors to be more proactive and effective in providing help for veterans and their families.
David Fenell, Ph.D., a counseling educator, is also a retired Army mental health officer who did combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He feels that insufficient attention has been given to the wellness-based, interpersonal approach to helping that counselors can provide. His presentation was aimed at giving counselors insights into current approaches that can help veterans and their families normalize their lives.
Another presenter, Lynn K. Hall, Ph.D., focused on the “transition journey” that military families face. Events as common as being reassigned from one base to another, or as tragic as the disabling or loss of a loved one due to combat, present military families with loss and grief issues which can be difficult to process. Dr. Hall, with more than 30 years experience in counseling and education, notes that often families haven’t had time to grieve over the previous change or loss before another one occurs. Her presentation will focus on assessment and intervention strategies counselors can use to better serve military clients in handling such transitions.
American Counseling Association President, Bradley T. Erford, Ph.D., notes that many counseling professionals have long focused on providing needed help to military clients. “But it is an audience we have to work even harder to address,” notes Dr. Erford, “especially in these times when the numbers of veterans who have seen combat action are so great and the cost that they have paid is so high. That is why we’ve made these educational programs focusing on counseling for veterans and their families an important part of this year’s conference.” The ACA National Conference was held March 21 to 24.
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