Battlemind: helping vets transition to civilian life by building on what is there

One of the most informative blogs that I am following these days is Psychotherapy Brown Bag, by Michael D. Anestis. Michael writes very informative pieces about evidence-based psychological therapies.

In a recent posting, Michael talks about Battlemind, a psychological intervention designed by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and aimed at US military personnel facing deployment in areas of operations (Iraq, Afghanistan). The goal of the intervention is to reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and sleep difficulties in soldiers returning from combat deployments.

The Battlemind Resilience Training is based on cognitive-behavioral concepts and mindfulness training. Technically speaking, there is no Solution-Focus in all of this.

However, I was pleasantly surprised by the Solution-Focused framing of the program; in the words of Michael Anestis:

Specifically, Battlemind procedures focus on the manner in which occupational skills developed leading up to and during deployment (e.g., unit cohesion, maintaining tactical awareness, accountability) are vital during deployment but potentially problematic when taken to an extreme upon reintegration to civilian life.  Unit cohesion can, in theory, cause post-deployment soldiers to seek out connections only with fellow soldiers, leading to a sense of distance, withdrawal, and emotional numbness with family and peers.  Maintaining tactical awareness can theoretically lead to PTSD symptoms such as hypervigilance, hyperreactivity, startle, and sleep difficulties.  High levels of accountability can lead to an intolerance of mistakes by others, which could result in social difficulties and anhedonia.  Battlemind takes a cognitive perspective and works with soldiers to harness those skills in a productive manner so as to help them more smoothly utilize their skills for a successful reintegration into civilian life.  In other words, they are not taught to blame themselves for their troubles, but rather to take control of their health by applying the same skills they have come to rely on in deployment environments in a manner likely to be more productive in their current environment. [my emphasis]

Do you see the Solution-Focused angle?

The whole program is based on the assumption that vets are competent; they can take control of their health; they are resourceful, they are not the problem.

Their training is not the problem, either – it is not something to be erased, taken away, or removed as if it were the cause of a problem. The skills they learned allowed them to survive and to be effective on the battlefield. And when they go back to civilian life, those very same skills can be the seeds to the solution of the problem of how to adapt to civilian life! Same skills, different context, different behaviors.

So, let’s see… building on what is already therethe client is the expert… Solution-Focus!!