Military members are a lot of things…brave, discipline, selfless, ethically sound, strong…and hardheaded. Yep I said it, HARDHEADED. Let me explain, I critique service members from extreme familiarity, and I include myself in this critique. Before becoming a therapist, I completed 15 years of honorable service in the United States Marine Corps. To be a service member requires adopting its unique culture as part of your own personal identity. It’s a culture that is forged in brother/sisterhood, constant close quarters, shared triumph, shared misery, joy, tragedy, and everything in between. The close-knit bond that service members share is not easily penetrated by those external to it, so when it comes time to seek counsel in the form of therapy, many service members dismiss the notion that anyone outside the culture could possibly understand what they’re going through. We’re stubborn that way.
Veteran Therapist + Military Client = An Instant Understanding
Since becoming a therapist, I’ve had the pleasure of working with military members and each experience has been incredibly successful. There is an entire dialogue that occurs between us that instantly forges a relationship. “Where were you stationed? Oh yeah, me too, when were you there? Do you member a Staff Sergeant named….? He was my platoon sergeant. That guy was the worst!” The rapport is immediate. What I’ve noticed is that once the client learns that I am a veteran, their demeanor changes, their shoulders relax, their lingo changes…usually a few more expletives…hey, its how we talk. The key here is that they become more comfortable with being themselves. They feel as though they’re amongst family, which they are. I have a special place in my heart for servicemembers. They’re “my people”.
The convenience of not having to explain the details of military culture to me helps to speed up the rapport building, no doubt, but the impact of familiarity is much deeper than timesaving. Military members are asked to do their jobs at a pace that doesn’t allow much time to process their emotions or maintain their mental well-being. We act, assess, repeat, and figure our own mind on our own time. Understanding what this phenomenon feels like is better felt than explained. When these clients talk to me, I feel them from both and internal and an external perspective. What often results from that exchange is a question to the effect of: “so how did YOU get through it?” I value this question because not only does it allow me to share off the record personal growth stories, but it allows me to serve as living, breathing empirical proof that mental health can be achieved.
Therapy For Military & Their Family
Military members are hardheaded, but it takes one to know one, as they say. There are hundreds of quality counselors doing incredible work every single day. However, there is certainly something different about talking to someone who understands you on a deeper level, one of your own. Honestly, I’ve adopted much of my therapeutic style from my time in the military and is translates well to everyone that I serve, but there is certainly something special about working with “my people”.
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About the Author:
William Coombs, DSW, ACSW
Former U.S. Marine Intelligence Analyst, William Coombs, is now a clinical therapist. Above all, he values authenticity and an individualized approach to your therapy experience. If you are looking for a therapist who gets it and is ready to help you become your best self, let’s talk. Visit our blog page to read more from William and other Outside the Norm therapists. Then, click here to read more about his training and approach.