Career and Job Search Guide

Veterans Counselor

The noble selflessness of many veterans unfortunately often results in untold emotional suffering. Since many veterans suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the Department of Veterans Affairs has taken steps to expand the amount of veterans' counselors available to veterans.

There are more than 5 million veterans living in the United States. Veterans' counselors treat veterans struggling with PTSD and other emotional problems, as well as members of their families. These professionals must have a basic understanding of military culture and protocol and demonstrate empathy while working with veterans suffering from PTSD.

Veterans' counselors treat most of their patients in veterans' hospitals, community centers, and private clinics. More than 200 veterans' centers are located within the United States. At these and many other facilities, veterans can meet with counselors free of charge.

Any veteran, no matter when their military service occurred, can meet with a counselor at a veterans' hospital or center. Since many veterans struggle with PTSD throughout their lives, it is not uncommon for a veteran from World War II or the Korean War to still meet with counselors. PTSD is frequently triggered as veterans get older and begin to reflect more on their military service.

The type of treatment administered by veterans' counselors varies, according to the severity of the condition their patients struggle with. Veterans exhibiting signs of more serious conditions, such as PTSD, usually receive cognitive processing or prolonged exposure therapy.

Veterans struggling with flashbacks associated with their war experiences are usually treated by prolonged exposure therapy. Veterans frequently suppress uncomfortable thoughts, which can worsen PTSD. The more veterans talk about their experiences the easier it is to cope.

If PTSD and other emotional problems are not treated, the stress and consequences can become worse. An everyday common occurrence can cause a veteran to have a flashback, which can result in an anxiety attack. Untreated symptoms can lead to severe depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicidal thoughts. Prolonged therapy treatment can alleviate anxiety associated with PTSD.

Cognitive processing therapy deals with the underlying issues behind a veteran's anxiety and mental anguish. In other words, it is used to find out what sets off anxiety. If a counselor can determine the source, then he or she can advise the veteran to avoid certain thoughts, situations, or anything triggering anxiety. Veterans can also leave cognitive processing therapy sessions with enhanced self-esteem, which can empower them to take greater control of their lives.

Veterans' counselors also treat family members of veterans trying to cope with their loved ones' anxiety and destructive behaviors. It is often difficult for them to understand the source of a veteran's emotional problems. Family members of veterans struggling with PTSD can become severely depressed, guilty, and even lose their temper.

During counseling sessions with family members, counselors focus on improving communication and strategies for controlling anger and coping with guilt. These sessions are very constructive since family members will have an opportunity to ask counselors about PTSD and their loved ones' behaviors.

Veterans' counselors are a valuable resource for veterans. The nation relies on veterans to defend it, and they in turn rely upon veterans' counselors to help them cope with the emotional scars they bring home with them from war. Those who are interested in working closely with veterans coping with PTSD, especially other veterans and members of the military, should consider a career as a veterans' counselor.