HomeNewsArticle Display

A peek behind the curtain: The first step of PTSD care

Many Airman are unaware what the initial meeting with a mental health provider looks like when they seek PTSD treatment. The goal of the first meeting is to make the patient feel comfortable and to be as transparent as possible about what is going on and what treatment options the patient has. As a result, the patient and mental health provider will more likely have a collaborative and trusting interaction, making PTSD treatment more successful. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Josh Mahler)

Many Airman are unaware what the initial meeting with a mental health provider looks like when they seek PTSD treatment. The goal of the first meeting is to make the patient feel comfortable and to be as transparent as possible about what is going on and what treatment options the patient has. As a result, the patient and mental health provider will more likely have a collaborative and trusting interaction, making PTSD treatment more successful. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Josh Mahler)

FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- Perhaps the most difficult part of seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder is making that first appointment, since Airmen are often unsure of what to expect.

Not knowing what to expect from mental health providers can get in the way of effective PTSD treatment. Lt. Col. Joel Foster, the Air Force Mental Health Policy chief, stresses the importance of Airmen knowing the process of an initial meeting, which can help dispel myths surrounding PTSD treatment and alleviate concerns.

“The first thing patients should understand is that mental health providers strive to meet the patient where they are,” said Foster. “This all starts by creating a good relationship with the patient.”

In the initial meeting, the provider aims to establish a genuine connection with the patient. With the goal of building a trusting relationship, providers seek transparency about what they are doing and what they want to accomplish.

“I talk about everything from what I am writing down, what I don’t write down, where that record goes, and who has access to it,” said Foster. “I want to be open with what I am doing so the patient is aware and is also able to trust me.”

Informed consent is a central part of this process.

With informed consent, patients make their own decision on what approach will work best.  According to Foster, this allows patients to go into therapy with eyes wide open, knowing how a particular approach will affect their lives.

Therapy effectiveness also hinges on the quality of the relationship between patient and provider through genuine and authentic interaction. This type of relationship also supports a trusting alliance.

“If you see your mental health provider as someone you can trust and see him or her as someone who is emotionally engaging, then you are more likely to listen and understand his or her recommendations,” said Foster.

These efforts contribute to a collaborative relationship designed to provide the help patients need.

 “I will talk with patients about their goals and what they want to accomplish,” said Foster. “In turn, I discuss various psychotherapy techniques or approaches that may be effective and talk about the pros, cons and potential risks associated with each approach.”

The first visit will often give patients a more objective understanding of their situation.

“As a mental health provider, I want to get to know what they are struggling with so I can give them objective feedback that is genuine and legitimate,” said Foster. “Hearing objective feedback can be powerful, enabling patients to believe things about themselves they may not have believed before.”

 Providers understand therapy can be challenging, especially when disclosing personal and traumatic topics. As Foster explains, any long-term goal, such as getting treatment for PTSD, will have steps along the way that may not be enjoyable at the time.

“Taking that first step to seek help can be the toughest step, but Airmen should know that it is not nearly as difficult as they think it is going to be,” said Foster. “I have had patients tell me they have been putting off seeking treatment for years because they initially thought it would be a difficult process. Almost every patient, after we have done two or three sessions, says that it was easier than they had originally thought.”

The Air Force is always working to make access to PTSD treatment easier for Airmen. Not only does every base have a mental health clinic, but Airmen also have access to the Behavioral Health Optimization Program, or BHOP, through their primary care clinic.

As Capt. Jordan Fields, an Air Force clinical psychologist at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, explains, having behavioral health specialists embedded into the primary care clinic makes it easier for patients to get the appropriate care they need.

“If symptoms are not easily managed within BHOP, patients are referred to a mental health clinic where they can receive effective PTSD treatment,” said Fields. “Whether a patient is referred to a mental health clinic or not, providers are focused on getting all Airmen healthy and fit to fight.”

Twitter
Many of our #Warriors rely on sports to be an essential part of their #Recovery. Join our #AFW2Social! This morning… https://t.co/xQM6zI3gXA
Twitter
Don't forget to tune into the #AFW2Socials we have planned this week! Invite your #wingmen, have your questions rea… https://t.co/cVTzF2l8bl
Twitter
Coping with Stress During Uncertain Times? Don't miss this special Monday AFW2 Live Resiliency Social on Facebook w… https://t.co/lcwQGBxqxL
Twitter
#AFW2_warriorwednesday Staff Sgt. Matthew Amick joined the #AirForce in 2009 and serves as a missile facility manag… https://t.co/uU9UkTmMWj
Twitter
The @USMC are lead planners for the 2020 @warriorgames and made the decision to cancel the games due to safety and… https://t.co/IIClisu1yn
Twitter
Don't forget to tune into the #AFW2Socials we have planned this week! Invite your #wingmen, have your questions rea… https://t.co/h3cPGjd6LD
Twitter
Happy Armed Forces Day to all service heroes for their patriotic commitment to this great Nation. Today we recogniz… https://t.co/04rvSEGq3V
Twitter
May is Mental Health Awareness month and this year it comes during a time of uncertainty and physical distancing th… https://t.co/ili23ToAKa
Twitter
Check out our #AFW2social featuring Master Sgt. Mike Meyers. https://t.co/WQadv8IwWF
Twitter
Check us out live on our main #AFW2 page for an #AFW2social featuring federal resume writing. https://t.co/JT1qLjg0Gj
Twitter
Check us out on Facebook. We're LIVE right now. https://t.co/YoBqc56cNi
Twitter
#AFW2 is going to be there with @cmsaf18. Are YOU? https://t.co/JCZfX4sqOZ
Twitter
Check us out LIVE tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. CDT for an #AFW2social on Federal Resume Writing. https://t.co/JqhpIDwfCj
Twitter
RT @cmsaf18: Team, please join @GenDaveGoldfein and I, April 6 at 3:30 pm EST, as we host a #COVIDー19 virtual town hall on the @usairforce
Twitter
Hey #warriors and #caregivers...you’re in for a special treat! @USAFReserve Tech. Sgt. Johnny Holliday will be pu… https://t.co/iGxlOfkCYG
Twitter
https://t.co/dlythfRfch A discussion on how warriors can remain positive, resilient, and social during this time of… https://t.co/Fh6SDWoyVo
Twitter
Hey #warriors! Who has had to change their daily routine to ensure everyone remains healthy and safe? What about th… https://t.co/PbLHX4Qemm
Twitter
#AFW2_warriorwednesday Senior Airman Richard Hernandez joined the @usairforce in 2016 and is stationed at… https://t.co/XZUVSZvUh9
Twitter
Good morning, #warriors! Have you checked out the latest episode of AFW2: Blue & Beyond? This week, we’re diving… https://t.co/egKGa4SBJA
Twitter
Are you doing your part to slow the spread of #COVID19? Check out our website at https://t.co/X8DpfpTYsf for a list… https://t.co/jCthvfCt7j
Twitter
5,484
Follow Us