Throwback Thursday: The Urgent Need for Christian Counselors for our Military

Posted on 17 June, 2016  in Conditions, News

Major General Bob Dees, U.S. Army,

Retired, AACC Military Director


Originally posted 11/12/2012

The mental and behavioral health challenges facing our nation’s military are unprecedented.  The military suicide statistics alone are tragic—what the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff termed “a national epidemic.”  These suicide dynamics, combined with the lingering effects of military deployments and combat trauma (physical injury, as well as PTSD and TBI), have created a “perfect storm” in the lives of hundreds of thousands of military personnel and their families.  Second and third order impacts of these challenging mental and behavioral health trends include unprecedented levels of veteran unemployment and homelessness, unacceptably high military divorce statistics, disturbing trends among military youth and teens, heightened military domestic violence, and rising rates of military sexual trauma.

While the government (Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, in particular) are working relentlessly to find solutions to this predicament, including very substantial resource commitments, there remains a very pivotal role for Christian Counselors in support of military troops, veterans, and their families.  This pivotal role is result of two primary factors:

  1. There is a nationwide shortage of mental health caregivers, both within the military structure, as well as within communities across our land where National Guard, Reserve, and military veterans reside.
  2. The quality of mental health providers does not include a sufficient number of faith-based counselors (especially Christian) to serve the predominantly Christian demographic in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Regarding both quantity and quality of military mental and behavioral health counselors, AACC members and other Christian counselors and caregivers across our land can make a unique and significant contribution to multiple generations of warriors and their families.  To meet this unprecedented challenge, I strongly encourage Christian counselors and caregivers at all levels of expertise to take a few steps to enhance their ability to provide care and counsel for the military at this critical juncture in our nation’s history.

What can you do as a Christian counselor, chaplain or caregiver?

First, gain greater understanding regarding military culture and the current military operating environment.  You don’t have to be an expert, but “cultural expertise” is a definite value add.

Secondly, determine the serving venue that best matches your gifts, talents, and experience:

  • As a professional counselor in private practice in a civilian community (ideally as a TRICARE provider)
  • As a lay counselor in your church or community outreach program
  • As an academician who teaches military personnel or military caregivers
  • As a researcher to assess the value added of various programs to address suicide prevention, PTSD, and other related issues
  • As a Department of Defense or Department of Veterans Affairs mental or behavioral health employee or contractor

With the requisite skills and a heart of compassion for the military, there are many paths to fulfillment for you and those you counsel.

Thirdly, be reminded that “Faith Makes A Difference.”  Particularly within our increasingly secularized military and society-at-large, faith and the associated quality of hope, is an unequaled antidote to despair, disillusionment, and ultimately personal destruction in the form of suicide.  Speaking as a former military leader, I know unequivocally that faith (for me, the Christian faith) is extremely relevant to building resilience in advance of trauma, to weathering the storm during trauma, and to bouncing back without getting stuck in the negative emotions of anger, bitterness, and false guilt.

As a fourth and final suggestion, continue to hone your skills, searching for effective best practices and networking with like-minded counseling professionals.  The AACC Military Counseling Initiative (MCI) is a “best practice” to prepare you for your service on behalf of the military, veterans, and their families.  MCI includes a growing reservoir of military counseling best practices, networking events, and affiliation with like-minded Christian counselors who have a heart for the military.

I encourage your outreach to the military.  Put into military vernacular, “Uncle Sam wants (and needs) you!”  Your compassionate care and counsel can and will make a big difference, in fact all the difference for those struggling between hope and despair, life and death.

I pray that God will provide you wisdom and courage as a Christian counselor and caregiver to begin marching to this pain in our nation’s military.  You will find it immensely rewarding as you bring the help, hope, and healing of Jesus Christ to those who so desperately need it. And you will save lives in the process.




Major General (Ret.) Bob Dees, M.S., is the Military Director for the American Association of Christian Counselors and oversees the Military Counseling Initiative Division. He also leads the Liberty University Institute for Military Resilience. Having commanded military units from platoon through division levels, he well understands the mental and behavioral health needs of our military and their families. As a frequent speaker, author of Resilient Warriors, and co-host with Dr. Tim Clinton of the popular Stress & Trauma Care video series, General Dees is a national leader regarding faith-based resilience programs for the military and beyond.

This article, Throwback Thursday: The Urgent Need for Christian Counselors for our Military, first appeared on American Association of Christian Counselors.

Using Dogs in Animal Assisted Therapy

Posted on 13 June, 2016  in Conditions, News


Dogs have proven over and over that they are truly man’s best friend. Dogs provide unconditional love to their families and and joy to animal lovers everywhere. They are also smart and hard working, so it’s only natural that dogs would be an obvious choice for working in therapy. Animal Assisted Therapy is becoming more and more common, and dogs are being used in the helping and healing in many health fields.

Mental Disabilities

For people with mental disorders and disabilities, animal assisted therapy can have such a huge impact on their lives. Dogs who have naturally calm demeanors typically do the best as therapy dogs, and can be trained to recognize and help calm down their person in the case of an emotional episode. Veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder can suffer from insomnia, depression, anxiety, and intense flashbacks. Having a dog can help comfort veterans with PSTD by being a constant loving companion and provide a calm environment.

Dogs can be a great asset for children with Autism. Autistic children often have developmental delays, physical delays, and have trouble connecting with other people. Owning a pet has been shown to help children with autism with social skills, communication, coordination, and physical abilities. Having a dog can also help autistic children connect with their peers by relaxing them and giving them a companion that everyone wants to play with together.

Mental Health

The mental health field has often been one that is misunderstood. There has always been a stigma surrounding people seeking counseling, but recently using animals along with therapy has been helping people come to terms with it. Many psychiatrists have been recognizing the benefits of pets for their patients, saying that research is showing that, alongside medication and counseling, pets are providing better outcomes for patients with serious mental health issues, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and schizoaffective disorder.

Pets are also highly recommended as therapy for people with depression and anxiety. Often people with depression and anxiety feel stressed, alone, unloved, and cut off from the world, and bonding with dog can help alleviate these feelings. Dogs love unconditionally, so when someone is feeling unloved and rejected by their peers, their dog is there to love them no matter what. There is also the element of responsibility when owning a pet, which can help keep people grounded. Knowing that there is a companion that relies on them completely for their wellbeing can give a person purpose.

Animal Assisted Activities

Dogs and other animals can be of service to the community even when not assisting their owners directly. Dogs that have certain personality and behavior traits can be trained and certified as therapy dogs. Therapy dogs and their owners volunteer in animal assisted activities, where they visit and participate in different facilities and programs.

One common volunteer activity is for therapy dogs to visit patients in hospitals. Patients can receive a visit from a therapy dogs and the positive interaction can help the patient with fear, anxiety, and pain with the positive energy the dog can bring. Therapy dogs that volunteer a required to be fully vaccinated and thoroughly bathed before arriving at the hospital to prevent the spread of infections within the hospital.

Another common activity for therapy dogs is working with children in a variety of settings. Schools and education programs will sometimes use therapy dogs to ease the anxieties some students feel when learning. One speech-language pathologist in a Minnesota high school brings her therapy trained dog with her to school once a week. She said “I have some kids who are pretty low-functioning, but when I bring Murphy in they smile and move their hands to pet him. My fluency kids are more fluent when they speak with him.” Libraries across the country also have reading programs where kids can read to therapy dogs. The dog’s presence creates an non-judgemental and calming atmosphere where kids who are struggling with learning to read can practice without worry.

Dogs and other pets make our lives so much better just by their very presence, and every day we are learning more and more how much they can benefit our lives. Research is proving more and more that having pets can make us healthier and happier, and be a great asset for people who need a little extra love.

This article, Using Dogs in Animal Assisted Therapy, first appeared on Puppy Toob.

Mental Wellness Program Helps Pearl Harbors Silent Service

Posted on 10 June, 2016  in Conditions, News
160518-N-LY160-032 JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii (May 18, 2016) – Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Michael D. Vance, left, and Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Seth Sweger, right, behavioral health technicians, pose next to the Submarine Base Pearl Harbor crest at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael H. Lee)

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii (May 18, 2016) – Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Michael D. Vance, left, and Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Seth Sweger, right, behavioral health technicians, pose next to the Submarine Base Pearl Harbor crest at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael H. Lee)

Commander Submarine Forces Pacific

Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Lee

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR HICKAM, Hawaii – Years of constant training, separation from family, long deployments and work-ups or even misconceptions can lead even the best submariners down a terrifying and lonely state of mental illness in a submarine community historically known as the silent service.

Two hospital corpsmen, loaned from the Makalapa Clinic in Pearl Harbor, schedule daily visits and client hours to the boats and her crews, from Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC), to identify and educate Sailors with various psychiatric illnesses in Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Seth Sweger and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Michael D. Vance, behavioral health technicians (BHT), rotate their time between the Makalapa Clinic and COMSUBPAC to work closely with submariners to educate them about mental wellness.

“We assist Sailors with everything from depression, anxiety, anger, relationship issues, work stress, loss of a loved one and sleep hygiene,” Sweger said. “A large portion of our job is education, but we’re also there in case a Sailor wants to blow off steam.”

The COMSUBPAC wellness program stemmed from a pilot program from the submarine community on the East Coast lead by Brian McCue, Ph.D., Center for Naval Analyses Representative, Commander, Submarine Force Atlantic.

“Historically, there has been a separation between operational commands and mental health providers,” said McCue in a July 29, 2015 Mental Health Pilot Program Final Report to Submarine Squadron Six. “Decisions impacting fitness for duty were based only on the service member’s subjective report, without the benefit of command input or appropriate collateral information such as behavioral observations.”

Since January 4, 2016, Sweger and Vance have mirrored the pilot program and split their time on boats and client hours at their temporary office at the Naval Submarine Support Command office in Pearl Harbor.

“Submariners have a high level of resiliency, and it’s finding those outliers,” Sweger said. “The guys, if you’re looking at the stress continuum, who are in the yellow or orange and seeing what we can do to stop them from hitting the red.”

For Vance, serving the submarine community is more than a job. It’s feeling that he’s making a difference in improving the lives of Sailors.

“I joined this field because I wanted to help people,” said Vance. “I get to make a difference whenever a person comes to see me. I can change their viewpoint on life, and make them feel a little bit better about their situation.”

The wellness program offers confidential assistance in line with services offered by Navy chaplains. Disclosed information is restricted unless there are red flags concerning self-infliction and/or harm to others.

“They have a stigma that if you go see mental health, then you’re going to be removed from the boat,” Sweger said. “That if you do, it’s going to hurt the rest of the crew. They keep struggling, they keep fighting on doing their work until they break and then they have to be removed.”

Selected hospital corpsmen are pipelined into the Behavioral Health Technician “C” school for four months. Training includes three months of practicing in-take interviews, doctoral notes and diagnosis manuals for psychiatric diagnosis and a month of clinical apprenticeship at an in-patient psychiatry or hospital.

For Sweger and Vance, the goal of the wellness program is to continue their work at COMSUBPAC until permanent billets are created and filled by qualified BHTs, along with a permanent on-site provider, to continue the much appreciated work these BHTs are providing to the submarine community.

“If you have some things going and you’re stressed out, please put me to work,” Sweger said. “I love what I do, I love helping these guys, and I love talking to the submarine community.”

For more news from Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, visit

This article, Mental Wellness Program Helps Pearl Harbors Silent Service, first appeared on Military Medical.

Throwback Thursday: Healing the Healer: Managing the Daily Stressors of Counseling

Posted on 6 June, 2016  in Conditions, News

Gregory Jantz, Ph.D.


Originally posted 4/21/14

As a professional counselor, you commit every day to being at your very best for your clients. That requires energy, focus, proper rest, time for professional reading, and time to complete continuing education. It’s a big commitment to be at the top of your game, every day, as you work with those who put their trust in you.

It is not uncommon for the pressures of your job – not to mention daily life stressors – to wear on you. No matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to get your energy back, can’t seem to get your focus…can’t find your “mojo” that used to define your excellence. You may even begin to exhibit some of the challenges characteristic of your clients.

As you look at the growing industry of counseling and the likely increase in stressors that will accompany it, it is important to ask yourself: What can I do to ensure I keep my energy and focus, keep my life in balance, and stay abreast with the latest counseling research and techniques?

In short, how can you continue to deliver world-class service for those who entrust their lives to you?

Here are five tips to help you manage the daily stressors of working in the mental health field:


1. Undergo a technology audit.

Let’s start with the foundation of your business. If you get bogged down in inefficiencies – can’t locate notes, scattered records, sloppy bookkeeping, sticky-notes everywhere, lack of follow up on outstanding invoices – you will grind your business to a halt before you ever get the chance to take advantage of your growth opportunities.

Speak with a technology professional about ways you can easily and painlessly upgrade your technology. They can provide options for you that meet your requirements and budget. A one-hour consult is frequently free and upgraded systems frequently come with training, if needed. The end result should be a more professional appearance and interaction with your clients, and more free time for you and your staff to do what you do best – provide quality care!


2. Invest in CEUs and professional events for learning and networking.

Continuing education not only helps you maintain your licensing requirements, it also provides the professional stimulation you need to expand your services, your insight, and your industry vocabulary. It encourages professional engagement with fellow colleagues, which breeds a healthy mix of professional-social conversations, promoting business development and cultivating your social/professional network.

When was the last time you went to a conference? How about a local half-day event that provided CEUs? Sure, they can be expensive and time consuming, but many are available that should fit nicely with your budget and schedule. When you attend, bring quality business cards and pass them out to reinforce a meaningful conversation. At an event, be positive and energetic; convey the professionalism and personal quality that defines you and your business. Why not consider attending AACC’s upcoming National Christian Counseling Conference this year?


3. Consider a counselor-specific wellness retreat/program.

Now that you have given a fresh look at some of the fundamentals of your business, begin turning inward. Have the years of dealing with deep, intense issues begun to sap your personal energy? Are you more and more negative and cynical? Are you withdrawing from your spouse, your children, your friends? Maybe you’ve begun to drink too much, or even take too many prescription medications. Or maybe you just lose yourself in work, never slowing down to enjoy the relationships in your life.

Do you know there are highly respected facilities that offer programs designed specifically for professional counselors? Our facility, The Center • A Place of HOPE, in Edmonds, Washington is one of them, for example.

Professional wellness programs enable you to take a full week (or more) away from your personal and professional environment, providing an exclusive opportunity for rejuvenation, revitalization, and spiritual growth. You work with highly qualified peers in your industry, discussing and collaborating on new techniques and procedures. Many facilities, like ours, offer CEUs. Finally, you receive private, individualized care for personal issues you identify prior to your arrival.

You leave refreshed, renewed, invigorated with new learnings and techniques, and reenergized for the next phase of your career.


4. Develop a personal wellness program of diet, proper sleep and exercise.

One of the elements we focus on at our facility in our “whole person” approach is diet, fitness and nutrition. While most of us can diagnose and recommend a better diet and fitness regimen for our clients, many of us do not inculcate our own advice into our daily lives.

A personal favorite resource of mine is the Clean Program from Dr. Alejandro Junger, but there are many good options. Take the time to discuss your wellness program with a professional. Make a plan. Stick with it. Feel great. Do good for your clients!


5. Commit to maintaining balance with your social and family relationships.

The final portion of this “healing the healer” message is to invest in your personal relationships. Some of us do a great job with this, others neglect these relationships in deference to their work. But eventually, the deterioration of relationships can have a devastating effect on your ability to deliver premium care for our clients.

Do you have children? Make it to their special events, as many as you absolutely can attend. Are you married or seriously involved in a relationship? Do little things that show you have taken the time and/or creativity to do something special for them. Do you have good friends with whom you haven’t spent time in a while, or even talked on the phone? Call one a day for the next two weeks during the drive home.

Put the special events in your life on your personal calendar and plan your work around them. Schedule time for a weekend get away with the kids, your spouse, or a friend.


Our industry needs great healers now more than ever. Don’t hesitate to get yourself in the best “shape” of your professional life this year and not just take on the challenge—but take your game to a whole new level by implementing these steps!

“The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail” (Isaiah 58:11).



Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center, a leading treatment center in Edmonds, Washington. He is a world-recognized expert and innovator in the treatment of behavioral disorders and addictions. He is also a leading mental health psychologist, focusing on his renowned whole-person care approach to treatment. His facility is recognized as the #1 Treatment Center for Depression in the U.S.

This article, Throwback Thursday: Healing the Healer: Managing the Daily Stressors of Counseling, first appeared on American Association of Christian Counselors.

How to get through pupillage interviews if you are prone to anxiety

Posted on 6 June, 2016  in Conditions, News

Beating a mental health condition to become a barrister is possible


Pupillage interviews are notoriously uncomfortable. Being grilled on your latest failure or your greatest success, alongside recalling the salient facts of Prest v Petrodel and then arguing for and against legal reform of the European Union is no easy feat. These interviews are nerve-wracking for any budding pupil.

Supplement that with a mental health condition and interviews can be particularly tough and, at times, a tormenting task.

I’m sure I stopped breathing in one interview. I froze completely, staring at the table, unable to answer a simple question. I could not remember, despite hours of preparation, the word “mortgage”. It was the final round of a cracking set and I was so close, I could taste it. Unfortunately, I could also taste my lunch coming back into my mouth, my hands were trembling and my face had reddened. I was so in my head space, analysing every item of land law that I could recollect, I forgot I was not speaking. After that long in silence, I was curtly provided with the answer. The panel wrapped up swiftly and I did not hear from them again. I sat on a bench outside Temple Tube station for several hours, completely numb after vomiting into a sink at Middle Temple Library.

During that period, I had been diagnosed with severe generalised anxiety, characterised by crippling physical symptoms of worry and panic.

As a result, it was no surprise that I struggled with converting my first rounds into second round interviews and second rounds into offers. Like many applicants, I was good on paper and decent at advocacy, yet the pupillage process was a nightmare of its very own.

Nevertheless, the medical treatment I had and the techniques I learnt (which I still use now as a practising barrister) I can share now with who might find themselves in a similar predicament.

1. Breathing

We are taught how to talk on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), but not always how to breathe. Breathing well means you will think and speak well. Find a breathing technique that works for you and your body.

My personal suggestion is if you’re in a fuzz, breathe in and count for two-three-four, then release and count for two-three-four about ten times. It helps if you keep your eyes closed and focus on your breathing.

If you get a particularly difficult question in interview, nobody will notice if you take a deep (quiet) breath before answering. Those three seconds will help your brain de-cloud. For maximum impact, speak on the outbreath.

2. Grounding

If you feel yourself losing grip leading up to an interview (or perhaps afterwards), this grounding technique may be effective.

Go through this in order: tell yourself five things that you can see, four you can hear, three you can feel, two you can smell, one you can taste. Slowly you should feel yourself coming back to the present moment and your breathing will become more level. Repeat it more than once for maximum calmness. Ground yourself too with art, music, sport, religion — whatever makes you feel human again.

During the interview, place your two feet firmly on the floor. Sit up straight, so that you are able to take a full breath without tension. Practice grounding and balancing yourself in this position on the train and at your kitchen table.

Before you start, pour a glass of water, and sip from it when you need to. Find a comfortable place for your arms and hands. I had my forearms on the table with my hands clasped down in front of me. I could use my hands to talk, but I didn’t fidget as much as I wanted to.

3. Music

Find. Your. Jam. Think about what music pumps you up or calms you down or makes you happy. You are far better listening to Kanye West’s ‘Touch the Sky’ before an interview than professor Quistclose’s latest podcast on trusts Law.

Create a playlist of your favourite tunes and play them as you walk to the interview. Then when you’re done afterwards, plug in your headphones and escape for a bit.

I got the dream offer from the last set I interviewed at. I had been to two on the same day, and by this one, I was utterly worn out, but surprisingly calm because I just wanted it all to end. I strode around in the gardens near chambers before going in, listening to music rather than re-reading my gateway form and recent case law for the umpteenth time.

Much of this game is won and lost on personality. I think because I let my guard down and was normal for an hour in that interview, I got the offer. Best advice? Calm the heck down, listen to something unrelated to law and just be yourself.

4. Time out

Get off The Student Room threads. Or if you cannot resist, limit yourself to one hour a day online by using Chrome Web Nanny or other site-blockers.

Same goes with refreshing your emails. You either get an email or you don’t. There’s no in between that comes simply from reloading your browser 57 times in ten minutes, or hanging out of the window in the Lake District trying to get 3G.

Get outside when you can. Many of you will have exams and interviews and even a job and kids all at once. That half an hour Family Guy episode or walk to the shops without your phone will do you the world of good, I promise.

5. Talk about it

If the worry is eating you up, tell someone. Go for a walk and call a friend, even just to talk about something other than the Bar. Talk to the family dog or priest or Grandma.

Not everyone realises that pupillage interviews aren’t like normal interviews. It feels like the whole world is at stake — the gravity of it all needs to be recognised by colleagues, friends and family. The other important thing is that they will ground you, and keep things in perspective.

6. Own it

Don’t forget that being anxious has its purpose — it reminds us that this is a big deal. We need that adrenaline to quickly remember the components of a tort, to keep us alert and on our toes. It is okay to be nervous. It means you care. It will make you a good barrister. So feel the fear and do it anyway.

If it is getting really overwhelming, though, do think about talking to your GP and/or to a mental health organisation. It is their job to help and they can point you in the right direction if you need treatment.

Mind UK has a fantastic text message service which will answer your questions about what to do. For more immediate help, of course, do contact the Samaritans.

Other little tips include opting for a cup of tea to warm the voice, which works better than cold water, having some semblance of sugary food beforehand so you don’t get a head rush walking up the stairs to your interview, accepting that you will have some horror stories to tell such as falling over in heels as you leave the interview, wearing a comfortable suit, and not feeling obliged to wear heels either. And remember, your interview panel will have been there before. Trembling hands and all.

Travelling Bird is a civil pupil barrister from London.

The post How to get through pupillage interviews if you are prone to anxiety appeared first on Legal Cheek.

This article, How to get through pupillage interviews if you are prone to anxiety, first appeared on Legal Cheek.