Seeking Therapy for Birth Trauma in the Military

I have touched upon PTSD in previous posts, discussing how people can be on that path and some of the ways that they can seek treatment.  One way that helps many is therapy.  In the military, there can be many barriers to a Soldier seeking assistance with Behavioral Health.  These include Chain of Command conflicts, mission needs and availability of services.

Seeking assistance at the Behavioral Health Clinic on post can be as simple as calling to find out when their walk in hours are, and then going.  But sometimes it isn’t that simple.  The walk in hours are usually after the duty day has already started, and this can cause some Soldiers to avoid going because they must then speak with their First Line Leader about why they need to be gone.  Sometimes if you get lucky, you can go on a day after Staff Duty or manage to find a day when there’s nothing going on and just let them know that you’re running an errand or two and you’ll be back in about an hour.

So what happens during the walk in?  Well, you’ll most likely fill out a survey on the computer.  It asks questions about how you’re feeling, if you drink or smoke, if you have any conflicts with anyone, whether you’re thinking about hurting yourself, and other questions as well.  Once you complete the survey, you wait until a therapist comes and brings you back to their office.  Once there, you talk with them about why you are there, what else is going on in your life, and some general back ground questions.  Based on that, they will talk to you about making a followup appointment to speak with someone on a regular basis.

From there, you go to the front desk of the clinic to make your follow up appointment, and get an appointment slip.  Here’s where it gets tricky for some Soldiers.  In many units, it is customary for them to require you to bring your appointment slip in and then they write it on a calendar somewhere so they can help to decrease the number of “No Shows” that they have to medical appointments.  Here’s the thing, posting information about your appointments in a place that can be seen by anyone is a violation of your rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).  Frankly, it really isn’t anyones business if you’re going to BH or not.  But in the military, it can certainly be a tricky situation.

Your unit, mainly your Commander and your First Sergeant, are responsible for ensuring the health and welfare of all of their Soldiers.  As a part of this responsibility, they should permit you to seek the assistance that you desire and/or require to ensure that you recover both mentally and physically from a traumatic birth experience.  However, that doesn’t mean that they won’t want to speak with you regarding the situation as a whole to ensure that you are okay.  I personally don’t know all the regulations regarding this, and whether they can even ask questions or not.  My advice on this would be to confide in your First Line Leader first, and discuss with them whether you have to talk to the 1SG or Commander.  Best case scenario, you’ve kept your FLL in the loop so they know where you are at and you avoid an awkward conversation with anyone else.

If you are uncomfortable going to the BH clinic on post, there are other options that you can explore as well.  Calling Military One Source is a great way of finding out if there are counselors in your area to speak with, and sometimes they are able to get you in with them for several sessions for free.  It can be very helpful to be able to speak to a therapist regarding birth trauma, and make a plan of action to not only recover from your past but to move forward.

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