Mental health and the security clearance holder once had a very complicated relationship. But now that we are in an era where seeking out mental health treatment voluntarily is encouraged, we still have combat veterans that struggle to work through events that may be classified. How do you seek out mental health treatment if your traumatic event is attached to service or a classified event you cannot discuss?
ClearanceJobs chatted with Lauren Rich, LCSW, who works strictly with combat veterans, many whom have events she must not know specific details about.
CLASSIFIED TRAUMA AND THERAPY
Some individuals with access to classified information or who have maintained a security clearance still believe that it would be revoked if they sought out treatment – even though there are mental health options for the security clearance holder.
It sounds like a tough situation on someone already hurting, mentally. To discuss events that could be causing physical symptoms like panic attacks, sweaty palms, or night terrors to a practitioner who doesn’t have a “need to know” could be deemed a violation of the law or your NDA – especially if special access programs or SCI is involved with the traumatic event. If your provider is private, not a part of the employee assistance unit within your agency, and therefore not “read on” to the mission, how do you start to repair your mental health damage?
EYE MOVEMENT DESENSITIZATION AND REPROCESSING THERAPY
Rich notes that the big three types of therapy that are endorsed by the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs are Prolonged Exposure, Cognitive Processing Therapy, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy. Rich has used and is certified in all three.
Prolonged Exposure Cognitive Processing Therapy are both processes where patients must verbally recount or write in narrative form, in great detail, the variables of the traumatic event. If you hold a security clearance or your event is classified, these modalities are just not possible.
EMDR takes trauma from a nervous system approach – trauma is something we argue with cognitively, but we need to take care of the physical symptoms first. Rich says, “We cannot argue with trauma. When it comes to EMDR we are working on the anxiety within your body… then we move to cognition.” There is very little talking with this modality – you will picture images or memories of classified events, and practitioners use a bilateral stimulus (i.e., eye movements, auditory, etc.) for you to associate the memory with. As soon as your done with the stimulus, patients will use descriptive words instead of situation specific details to describe how they feel.
EMDR has been researched at length, has been found an effective psychotherapy method for those with PTSD, and is endorsed by many practitioners.
Rich and other providers say that combat veterans or those with classified trauma just need to get to therapy. They are there to do the rest. You can learn more about Rich’s practice at www.laurenrich.net.