School helps military vets find peace of mind

July 28, 2011 10:05:06 AM PDT
Combat veterans often struggle to adjust to life once they return home. Many experience psychological challenges that require support from therapists who understand and are trained in this area.

A local school of psychology is making this possible.

Adler School of Professional Psychology's military psychology program will be starting this fall. It prepares students to work as clinical psychologists either as members of the military or as civilians.

Joseph Troiani is a retired U.S. Navy commander and an associate professor at Adler who created the military program.

"Two years ago we decided to formalize, that by the development of a specialty track of elective courses to better prepare the student interested in either going into the military as a military psychologist or in working with veterans," said Troiani. "For example, we have a course called 'The Psychology of Combat and Conflict.' ... We also have additional classes dealing with disaster response."

Professor Troiani says there has been a dramatic increase for mental and behavioral health services.

"The VA in the last couple of years have been expanding both their mental health program in the hospital as well as their vet centers which are outpatient counseling centers," Troiani said. "One of the unfortunate facts is probably we lose as many men and women to suicide as we do to combat.

"The secondary issue of post traumatic stress disorder: A Recent article stated that possibly up to 70 percent of our men and women returning from either Iraq or Afghanistan have some degree of PTSD."

Student Melissa Dreffin was part of the research team that put together this program.

"I became interested in this field actually as a result of multiple friends who have done multiple tours, both Iraq and Afghanistan, and seeing them comeback and struggle with psychological care, and wanting to find a way to get involved with the field and make a difference any way I could," said Dreffin.

She is now doing her internship at a VA hospital in Ohio.

Samantha Schilling was in the Navy from 1999 to 2003.

"I was an information systems technician," said Schilling. "I want to work at a VA or I want to continue on in the Air Force as an officer."

Although Schilling was never in combat, she learned a lot about the impact of war from her friends.

"Some of them have post traumatic stress disorder. some of them have traumatic brain injuries," said Schilling.

"War is very traumatic," said Troiani. "For the individual experiencing it, but also for their family who might be here back home and having to deal on a day-to-day basis with loved ones.

"We all have somebody we lost or know of persons that have been lost in this conflict, so it's both the trauma and the traumatic results that are the aftermath of this conflict as well as any war."

Adler is the only doctorate program in the United States that offers an elective track in military clinical psychology.

For more information on Adler School of Professional Psychology, visit the school's website,

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