Seventy psychologists in Los Angeles and Orange counties are aiding returning troops by offering free psychotherapy to active-duty service members, veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, and their families. The Soldiers Project, a volunteer group founded and run by psychoanalyst Judith Broder, MD, matches local mental health professionals with service and family members with such problems as combat stress, marital strain and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The project has served more than 100 clients--roughly half are service members or vets and half are family or close friends.
Project volunteers promote its work by speaking to groups such as Blue Star Mothers, institutions that serve the military, and to churches, synagogues and political groups. To eliminate the red tape many service members are accustomed to, Broder returns all referral calls or e-mails within 24 hours.
The Soldiers Project trains volunteers through workshops taught by Veterans Affairs experts and others on such topics as combat trauma, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma and military culture. Volunteers also meet regularly in small groups to consult about their clients--though practitioners take great pains to ensure confidentiality, says psychologist and project assistant director Barbara Schochet, PhD.
"Military are always worried that if they are seen in therapy that it might interfere with others' impressions of their fitness to serve and ability to lead, which affects their ability to be promoted," says Schochet.
The Ernest J. Lawrence Trauma Center of the Los Angeles Institute for Psychoanalytic Studies supplied the project's initial funding and ongoing support; additional grants have come from the Verbena Foundation, the International Psychoanalytic Association and the American Psychoanalytic Association.
Buzz about The Soldiers Project has spurred similar groups in Chicago, Washington state and New York City, and The Soldiers Project of Los Angeles is working to expand its reach to nearby Ventura County and San Diego, Broder says.
For more on The Soldiers Project, visit www.thesoldiersproject.org.