DoD Introduces New Online Tool to Help Troops and Veterans Combat Stress
If you are a servicemember or veteran and you are undergoing one or more stressors in life, well, you can join the club. But you can also go online to www.startmovingforward.org and get some coaching to help you navigate some of life’s challenges.
The website walks you through common stressors that most of us go through at one time or another, from financial difficulties to relationship problems, and helps you identify different things you can do to cope with the problem. Some of these coping behaviors are positive and effective, of course, while others, like avoidance and procrastination, are negative coping mechanisms. The website is designed to help veterans and servicemembers develop successful strategies, and avoid falling prey to the unsuccessful ones.
The site is the brainchild of Art and Christine Nezu, two Philadelphia-area psychologists who emphasize cognitive-behavioral therapy in their own practices.
We’ll let them describe the cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) approach in their own words:
CBT places a strong emphasis on the principles of learning and how faulty learning may cause problems in a person’s life. This approach also involves evaluating how effective a therapy is by monitoring a patient’s progress. A “behavioral” approach to treatment focuses on a patient’s current circumstances as one important factor that affects a person’s behavior. Behavioral procedures generally are geared to improve upon a person’s self-control by expanding their skills and abilities. Often this is accomplished with the help of homework assignments and practice of new behaviors in a patient’s environment as part of treatment. A “cognitive” approach to treatment views problems as stemming from maladaptive and dysfunctional thoughts, ideas, and beliefs that have been learned earlier in life. Consequently, such ways of viewing the world can affect a person’s behavior and emotions in negative ways. The goal of cognitive therapy is to modify a person’s way of thinking so that a change in behavior and emotions can occur. This is achieved by monitoring tasks, such as tracking thought patterns and performing experiments in everyday life, in order to determine if the ideas or beliefs are actually valid.
CBT combines behavioral and cognitive approaches to treatment and focuses on helping people become more aware of their emotions and how such feelings influence their thoughts and behavior. CBT includes many different techniques and interventions that have been found to be scientifically sound. It helps people achieve specific goals and changes.
Goals might include:
- New ways of acting or behaving, such that the likelihood of future behavior problems is significantly reduced and new skills are developed (such as assertiveness, communication, self-management, or parenting skills).
- New ways of managing feelings, such as helping a person to understand and better manage feelings of fear, depression, anxiety, shame, or hostility. A focus on feelings may also help people experience more positive emotions, such as joy, gratitude, or peace.
- New ways of thinking, such as learning to solve relationship problems or change negative thinking.
- New ways of coping, such as being able to more accurately identify problems, change cognitive distortions, tolerate and use negative emotions more effectively, and change destructive relationship patterns.
CBT usually focuses on the current situation, rather than the past. However, consistent with our integrative psychotherapy approach, it is important to note that early emotional learning experiences can significantly contribute to current thoughts, feelings, and actions. Some CBT strategies work on changing views that were learned early in one’s life experience and replacing ways of living that do not work well with behaviors that are more effective in order to provide individuals with more control over their lives.
The website, an initiative of the Department of Defense’s National Center for Telehealth and Technology and the Department of Veterans Affairs, is intended to give servicemembers and veterans who may not have ready access to mental health professionals, who cannot afford counseling or who may be averse to counselors for whatever reason a way to get some help and perspective without having to go to a clinic, or speak to strangers on the phone.
A big focus for the website is stress management. The site helps viewers develop positive stress management behaviors, while avoiding negative ones. The site fits in a broader spectrum of mental health resources available for veterans and service members, along with www.militaryonesource.com, military and VA counselors and clinics, private clinics, suicide hotlines, and medical professionals.
The Moving Forward website is not designed to replace an in-person professional therapist, psychologist or other medical professional. It is also not designed to replace anti-anxiety, anti-depression or other beneficial medications, if appropriate. If your issues are severe, the Nezus and the DoD urge you to additionally see a mental health professional in person.
For a referral qualifying individuals can contact www.militaryonesource.com, www.veteranscrisisline.net, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) (Spanish/Español 1-888-628-9454). Veterans press “1” after you call.
An additional listing of available support agencies and services in place to help service members, veterans and their families can be found here.