Women of the Military

Finding Mental Health Services for Veterans

Episode Summary

The Cohen Veteran Network seeks to provide mental health services for veterans. They serve post 9/11 veterans, active duty (with a Tricare referral), and their family members. CVN works to help strengthen mental health among the veteran community. Cohen Veteran Network is a nationwide 5013c non-profit. If you are interested in working with any of the CVN providers head over to their website to find out if your location is covered.

Episode Notes

Thank you to Blue Star Families for supporting the Women of the Military podcast! The Military Family Lifestyle Survey is open until June 6th, 2021. Head over to BlueStarFam.org/survey2021 to take the survey today. You could win one of five $100 gift cards. The stories and information shared become the fuel and information leaders need to help create change that will directly benefit us and our families.

This week I'm interviewing the Steven A Cohen Military Family Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania's Director Leah Blain, PhD. Dr. Blain earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, from the University of Missouri – St. Louis. There she conducted research in the effectiveness of Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  She completed an internship and postdoctoral fellowship at the VA Maryland Healthcare System. There she trained in Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE), Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) for depression, anxiety and panic disorder, and chronic pain, and mindfulness-based interventions. She previously served as Director of Behavioral Health at Chase Brexton Health Care’s Columbia Center. Her clinical work focuses on trauma recovery, working with survivors of assault, abuse, and combat, on issues including depression, guilt and shame, anger, dissociation, and PTSD.

The Cohen Veteran Network believes in evidence-based treatment with the goal of working toward finding healing. The program provides timeline-based care with a comprehensive plan created for the member to meet the needs of the member and to help them in their future.

Access to Care

This episode coved how easy access to care through the Cohen Veteran Network is. We also discussed how being in a crisis stage is not the only reason to reach out for care. Those who are looking for treatment for a variety of reasons should consider reaching out to the Cohen network.

Mental health is a spectrum

Mental health is a spectrum and not a straight line. People might often look at mental health and compare where they are in a linear sort of way. But mental health is anything other than linear and each person needs to find a path that works for them. The Cohen Veteran Network helps to ensure veterans and their families are given the proper support with either a long-term care plan or the opportunity for booster or check-in therapy as needed.

Trauma is not always military related

The last main topic we covered is that some trauma that military members have faced comes from childhood or non-military-related events. Sometimes war or military experiences can cause trauma from people's past to exacerbate the experiences faced in the military. The Cohen Veteran Network does not withhold care from veterans or family members for any reason. They work to help people with whatever trauma they are facing.

Connect with Steven A Cohen Military Family Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania:

Steven A Cohen Military Family Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania website

Cohen Veteran Network Website

Mentioned in this episode:

Changing the Conversation about Mental Health

Related episodes:

Mental Health in the Military - Episode 73

Looking at Military Service from a Different Perspective - Episode 125

An Invisible Combat Veterans Story - Episode 90

Check out the full transcript here.  

Thank you to Blue Star Families for supporting the Women of the Military podcast! The Military Family Lifestyle Survey is open until June 6th, 2021. Head over to BlueStarFam.org/survey2021 to take the survey today. You could win one of five $100 gift cards. The stories and information shared become the fuel and information leaders need to help create change that will directly benefit us and our families.

Thank you to my Patreon Sponsor Col Level and above:
Kevin Barba, Adriana Keefe, Lorraine Diaz

Thank you Patreon members for your support. Become a Patreon member today! Click here.   

Episode Transcription

Amanda Huffman00:00

Welcome to Episode 137 of the women in the military podcast. This episode was created in partnership with the Steven a Cohen military family clinic at the University of Pennsylvania. And this week I'm interviewing the director of the Steven a Cohen military family clinic at the University of Pennsylvania Leah Blaine, Dr. Blaine earned her Ma and PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Missouri St. Louis. There she conducted research and the effectiveness of cognitive process therapy for post traumatic stress disorder. She completed an internship and postdoctoral fellowship at the VA Maryland healthcare system. She previously served as the director of behavioral health at the Chelsea brexton health care's Columbia center. Her clinical work focuses around trauma recovery, working with survivors of assault, abuse and combat on issues including depression, guilt, shame, anger, this association and PTSD. The Cohen veteran network seeks to provide mental health services for post 911 veterans, active duty members and their families. The Cohen veterans network is a nationwide network and you can learn more about their services and getting services by going to their website, which is Cohen veterans network.org slash clinics. So let's get started with this week's interview with Dr. Leah Blaine. You're listening to season three of the women on the military podcast Here you will find the real stories of female servicemembers. I'm Amanda Huffman, I am an Air Force veteran, military spouse and mom. I created women in the military podcast in 2019. As a place to share the stories of female service members past and present, with the goal of finding the heart of the story, while uncovering the triumphs and challenges women face while serving in the military. If you want to be encouraged by the stories of military women and be inspired to change the world, keep tuned for this latest episode of women on the military. Welcome to the show. Yeah, I'm so excited to have you here.


Dr. Leah Blain02:21

Thank you. I'm excited to be here.


Amanda Huffman02:23

So we're gonna start a little differently than we normally do. Because this podcast episode is not about your military story, but about the Cohen veteran network and the work that you're doing there. So let's start with how did you end up at Cohen veterans network,


Dr. Leah Blain02:40

So, I'm a licensed clinical psychologist. And so I really came to this work kind of there's a personal partner professional part. So the personal part, I grew up in the middle of New Jersey right near the joint bases, wire Dix lakehurst, as it's called now, and my my pop up served in Korea. And so I always had kind of a loose military affiliation. It was kind of like in, you know, always there in my sphere. And I went to graduate school, I knew I wanted to do trauma recovery, I was really passionate about, I had seen a lot of people in my life coming up that had been really tough things and watch the impact that it had on them. And I was just really inspired to see if there was anything that we could do to help promote healing and recovery. And so went to graduate school out in Missouri and St. Louis, and just had some fabulous training, had the opportunity to move back to Baltimore and work at the VA there and just absolutely fell in love with the population. I did my internship and my postdoc year there and just absolutely loved it. And then I had the opportunity to open a clinic actually down there in Columbia, Maryland. It was a local federally qualified health center, but it was right outside Fort Meade. And so I got to continue working with veterans and family members outside the VA. And it turns out, I fell in love with that. And then, you know, this, the column clinic was opening at Penn. And, you know, we were from this area wanted to back to this area. And it was just like all the stars aligned. And so we've been open about five years served, I think, almost 1700 veterans and military family members in that time. And it's just the best so I can talk more about what we do. But it really felt like this was just really truly stars aligning in terms of things I'm passionate about, both in my personal life and my professional life. And I get to serve those who serve every day. So it's pretty amazing.


Amanda Huffman04:25

So you haven't served in the military, but you've served in the military community through the VA and then the other clinic and now your colon. So that's really interesting that you found the VA and then you just like fell in love with what the work that was being done. So that's just a really cool story. And I think it's been really cool to see how you can like bring non veterans into the veteran space and then they connect and you're able to offer a different perspective and we're able to show you more so you're able to connect with more people.


Dr. Leah Blain04:58

Yes. So in terms of like Weaving those aspects together aren't Yeah, our clinic is actually really passionate about and part of kind of what we view as our mission is to raise awareness around, you know, issues that our veterans and military family members and service members face. And so we're kind of a, I would say, you know, a mission for us within our mission is actually increasing that awareness and bringing civilians together to bridge that divide. So a good number of our team members either have served or have close family members who have served, you know, and, you know, really are more kind of closely knit military family members, and a lot of our folks are civilians, who've just really again, kind of fallen in love with working with this community, whether it was through the VA, or through other avenues. And so it's, it's a really, I think, it's a wonderful thing to see. And we see a lot of our supporters of our clinic people who are passionate about what we do, and either into support our work philanthropically, or with other awareness building, a lot of a lot of those folks are civilians, too. So it does feel like it's, you know, there's some some building momentum there.


Amanda Huffman06:02

Yeah. So now we know a little bit about the team. And like how you came to come on, let's talk about like, what services you guys provide and what your mission is.


Dr. Leah Blain06:11

Yeah. So this, the colon veterans network, at this point has almost 20 clinics open across the country, we were the fifth to open and the mission across the network is the same even though you know, services at any given clinic are going to look a little different because it's tailored to our local environment. But the con veterans network mission is to ensure access for our veterans and military family members. CBN does have a focus on post 911 veterans, really, because the goal is to prevent long term challenges that we know prior area areas of service have seen. And so we really, we try to make it as easy as possible to engage. So when we're in person, that means transportation assistance. That means, you know, parking passes, we've always offered telehealth, all of our clinics have offered telehealth pretty much from the minute they opened. So then when we had the pandemic hit for us, it was just a pivot, it really wasn't, you know, it wasn't even new. And then in terms of kind of that what we do with you know, other than just making it really easy to get here, our goal is to provide the highest quality of care that we possibly can. So that means that everyone who works with us, everyone on our team has training and military cultural competence, and really, whether they've served whether they're military connected, everybody, you know, there's a real emphasis because if you served in the army, you still need to scale up on Navy culture, Air Force culture, you know, what have you. So we really want to make sure that everyone who walks in the door is welcomed is understood, they don't have to translate what something means. And then you know, the other piece that we place a big emphasis on is what we call evidence based care. So we really prioritize using treatments that have been tested, that have been proven to work for whatever challenged that veteran or service member or military family member is coming in with, because our goal is to get people back to thriving as quickly as possible. And we know that our evidence based treatments are what got us there. So that means we use psychotherapy, which is like talk therapy, so kind of weekly meeting one to one, you're talking through things, but then you also have home practice you're really working on on things outside of session, we do have medication management, that's an option, some of our folks are really excited about that other people don't want that, or may have that outside. So that's just an option that's never required. And then we also offer case management for all those other things that can come up to make it really hard to get to session, right? Like, you know, if you want to come to treatment for yourself, but you're trying to get your kiddo you know, involved in care, or you, you know, don't have enough money to pay the rent, those kinds of things are huge stressors that get in the way. So case management can help us to really find you know, where resources exist, really find and connect folks to those resources so that they can keep moving towards their goals when they're in their therapy time.


Amanda Huffman08:53

Yeah, and I didn't know about Colin until I got contacted. And it's funny because I have a friend who is in the program right now. And she isn't telling me about how like, how good it has been for her and like how easy the process is. And then I'm in the process, I decided to call and set up a therapy session or to get and it was easy. I just called them and then they call me back asked me some questions. And now it's just a waiting game because I'm in the DC area. And you know, there's just so many veterans. But I have tried to get counseling on my own. And I ran into the problem of a trying to find a counselor who took my insurance and then be trying to find someone who understood like the military culture. So it makes me really excited that I can go to a place and not have to worry about those things.


Dr. Leah Blain09:41

Yeah, and I think, you know, that's such an important issue because when I think people talk about access to care as if it's one thing and it's not right because you know, income and insurance, you know, create really different pathways for people right, like if you're eligible for the VA that can be great for some folks, but some folks aren't eligible or if they are You know, the copay would be, you know, untenable or ditto with insurance. And then even if you find somebody, especially in the community, having you know, somebody who really understands military culture and some of the things that people are coming in with, there was a really good study. That was it was run out of New York, but it seems like it's pretty replicable that, you know, it was it was only like something like 3% of civilian providers felt really ready and able to serve our veteran and military community. So we know that there's just, there's just a divide that we need to keep our bridge. And in the meantime, you know, we're really thrilled to be able to offer that access. And with telehealth, it's also, you know, we can really offer it not just to you know, we're in Philly, right. So it's not just our local community, we serve a tri state area. So like wills, we serve folks in pa jersey and Delaware. You mentioned the DC clinic, they serve DC, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. Right. So it's really I mean, I think that's one of the ways that CBN is just so committed to breaking down those barriers, as we said, making it easy to get in.


Amanda Huffman11:00

Yeah, and the telehealth is great as a mom, especially when I trade COVID and having to worry about kids and childcare. And it's like, I can just turn on my computer. This is great.


Dr. Leah Blain11:09

Yeah, right. And even if folks like we even prior to COVID, like we were running really like a hybrid model, we just got folks ready for telehealth, if they preferred to come in, obviously, that's great. But then you know, if the cars out or you got you know, home, if you you know, left work late, so you could get home, but not to the clinic or whatever it means you just don't have to miss that session. And we know that consistency of care is actually a really good predictor of treatment outcomes. So we want to you know, that that once a week is not arbitrary. Really, if you think about, you know, keeping that momentum going, the more we can keep folks consistently engaged, the faster they get to their goals.


Amanda Huffman11:44

Yeah. And that reminds me of when I was looking at in California, and my babies were really little. And the lady who I connected with was like, if you miss the therapy session, it costs this much. And I was like, but I have kids, and if they get sick, I don't have childcare. And I was like, it was already like a struggle to afford it. And then to think that I would have to miss sessions and pay for them. My husband and I were like, oh, and then it was a barrier to getting the help that I that I need. Absolutely.


Dr. Leah Blain12:13

Yeah. And I mean, you I'm and I'm, I'm really glad that I mean, I'm really glad that you also found the code and clinic because I think it's the best, but I mean, it really speaks to why it's designed, the way that it is, is you know, just having insurance is not it's not the whole story. It doesn't make it easy. And I think that's really such a such an amazing thing that the Coen veterans network has been able to really commit to is that, you know, regardless, regardless of insurance, or ability to pay, people will be able to be seen. And I think again, it just, it just breaks down that potential wall. Yeah.


Amanda Huffman12:43

So let's talk a little bit about the basics of mental health, because we want to talk a little bit not just about access to care, but people might be wondering, and even I was wondering, like, Am I qualified? Because like, what mental health areas do you cover? And let's start with that and see where it goes. Yeah.


Dr. Leah Blain13:02

So we talk about mental health is really existing on a continuum, right? So you can be in I take a lot of folks think about a mental health crisis, right? Like we almost anger to like the worst point. And I think a lot of us know really what that means. Right? That means like, when somebody says that they're at their breaking point, or certainly if they're thinking about harming themselves or not wanting to be here, right? Like, that's the that's that worst case scenario that we hope to avoid, or get folks out very quickly. But there really is a continuum from crisis really through to like thriving, right? Like, that's really what we want to help people get to whatever that best point is that they can get to right now. So if that's stabilizing in crisis, and building a plan towards really feeling well, again, that's awesome. If somebody is just not quite feeling like themselves, right? Like, it doesn't have to be that crisis. But we talked about, like, prevention is the best, right? We would love to see folks when they're just starting to feel you hear all interesting stuff come in, like people really, I'm feeling funky or like, I'm not feeling like myself, you know, like, that's, that's great. That's a great time to come into. And so it's really about where can we help to kind of shore things up or help to really progress things. And so we just meet everybody where they're at that could be, you know, acutely, really feeling suicidal, really struggling with feeling very down very anxious. You know, certainly a lot of the folks that we're working with, have trauma histories, whether that was prior to the military, during the military or after or any combination thereof. And we know, you know, that's one of the things that our clinics on our network really focuses on is on trauma recovery, but we also work on things like, you know, adjustment, right, the transition out of the military or into the workforce or into, you know, a civilian classroom. We work with families. So we work we do couples therapy, we see whole family as we'll see kiddos, because we know that, you know, it's not our military families serve alongside and that's not just a platitude. It's real. And so we know that our veterans and our service members If they're worried about their loved one that's impacting their wellness, right? If they're, if their loved ones doing better our veterans and service members are doing better and vice versa. So we really challenge ourselves to be ready to serve that whole family, whatever that looks like. So I guess I would you know, in a short version of like, I think we get that question like, who should call or when should I call, like, if you're in a crisis, if things haven't been well, for a while, if things are just starting to feel funky, like there is not a wrong time to call. And ditto, if you're worried about a loved one, you know, cares, oh, it has to be voluntary to work, really, if somebody is not going to if somebody is not ready to meet change, they're not going to but you can also seek, you know, support for yourself, you know, as you're supporting your loved one if you're worried about them. So I think that's another great thing about the clinic is that we can really, you know, support the whole family system.


Amanda Huffman15:46

Yeah. I really love that you said like I was because when I got home from my deployment, I went to see a counselor. And I was like, I don't know, there's just something wrong. And she was like, well, you just got home from a deployment. And I was like, No, I don't think that's it. And she was like, No, you're fine. And it took me over five years before I finally went back to get help. And so to hear you guys say that, like, if I would have said that to you guys, you would have been like, okay, let's figure out what that something is. Instead of being like, well, you're fine, you know. And so I think that's just really so important to, to say, if there's something that you just feel is wrong, and you can't I because I couldn't name what was wrong. I don't even know if I can name it yet. Because I I went through Celebrate Recovery, and that the 12 steps, and it helped me a lot. And now I do meditation, but I still probably can't pinpoint what was causing me to feel that way. And she just told me, you're you're fine. You just got home from a deployment. And,


Dr. Leah Blain16:43

and I wasn't no. And even if you even if you would have been fine, right? Like even just the idea that having support at those times of stress, we know that the number one predictor of having a positive outcome after a trauma or a stressor is social support. Right? So just having that person to walk alongside as you're kind of untangling What is this new normal? How do I get back into this groove? You know, I mean, I prefer folks, you know, for folks who have deployed that's coming back into a family system often and reestablishing those roles for folks transitioning out of the military. I mean, I, you know, way better than me like this, it's a massive change on every level. And so just having a space to chat, you know, I call it like, it can just be an accountability check, right? You have a an hour once a week, where you come in and check in and go like, okay, am I taking care of myself and like, what's getting in the way, if I'm not, and like, what's on my mind, you know, therapy can be that it can just be that structured, like, okay, I want to be feeling better feeling like myself, again, you know, thriving more in this way, whether it's at home or work or whatever, and you set that as a goal, and then you figure out how to get to it. And as you said, that helps to kind of along the way, tease out, like, what is getting in the way of that? Why am I not doing right? So I'm really sorry? Because I do think sometimes our mental health services as a field run that issue of unless you have like a diagnosable condition, right? Then, you know, you kind of get a door shot, you know, like, Oh, you don't meet criteria for anything. And that's, that's not when we want to be intervening. We want to, we want to catch you when you say, Hey, I don't feel right. So I'm glad that you were persistent, at least. But I'm sorry that you got that door the first time.


Amanda Huffman18:22

It was a shut door. And then I was like, Oh, well, she says, I'm fine. So I must be fine. And then it was really hard to go get help. Because someone told me I was fine. And we've had so many


Dr. Leah Blain18:33

clients who have come in and been like, everybody's told me I'm okay. So I guess I'm okay. But I don't feel like you are the expert on you. Right. Like, if you tell us you don't feel right. You don't feel right. Everything's not okay. And and if it's before the time when it meets, you know, criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition. That's okay. Right. That's a again, that's a great time to come. So it doesn't get there.


Amanda Huffman18:55

Yeah, because it could have prevented my PTSD by getting help, then instead of having PTSD now,


Dr. Leah Blain19:01

potentially, yeah, exactly. Prevention is, I think, really underlooked in our system, and that's probably a whole nother podcast, because yeah, Fox for me. But


Amanda Huffman19:11

yeah, I love the terminology of mental health being a spectrum and not being like a linear path. But it's like everybody has their own path that they take and like, some days can be really good. And other days can be bad. It's not like, I've noticed that in my mental health journey is that like, some days I feel like, oh, everything's going great. And then the next day, it just all falls apart.


Dr. Leah Blain19:34

Yeah. Yeah. And it can be the next minute, right. Like, and I think I always I always giggle when people say like, you know, they have mental health. We all have mental health, right? We all have physical health. We all have emotional health. Right? And it's it really, again, as you said, it's just that Where are you on that continuum? Where are you at that moment? You know, I think people often in our culture, for whatever reason, we don't think about mental health until there's a problem. We don't have mental health all the time. How is our mental health? How is our emotional wellness that we should be? And I think we are increasingly as a culture checking in more often.


Amanda Huffman20:07

Yeah, I think so too. So I think we mentioned suicide prevention. Yeah. It's like one of the reasons that people come into the clinic. But what else is important? Like suicide prevention, of course, is really important. But like we were just talking about, like, we want to get there before we're at the point that people are having suicidal ideations and that sort of thing. So


Dr. Leah Blain20:28

sorry, I'm almost hearing like, what else should people look out for? And just to set some light? so prevalent? Right, so we know that you know, we've there's been a ton of survey especially in our veteran and military space, almost a fifth of veterans returning from the CFO, if conflict screen positive for mental health concern, you know, 30% of veterans reported PTSD, combat stress for TBI, right, like these are not uncommon issues. And you know, that less than half of people who do screen positive for a mental health concern of our veterans or military service members, less than half are getting care. Right. So I think, you know, I think often folks feel alone, there's there can be a lot of whether it's kind of from our culture, or just different ideas, folks have gotten about, like, who reaches out for behavioral health, and what does that mean, and I think that's really where it's important to kind of break down that stigma of like, if you are stressed at work, right, if you are noticing that you're having trouble falling asleep, because you can't turn your mind off, that, you know, whether that means criteria for something or not, that's a great time to call. So the most common issues that people reach out for are when it starts spilling out into their lives, right. So if they can't sleep, if they're fighting with people a lot if they can't concentrate, right, and like, I think we're all listening to this and be like, that's the pandemic, right, we're all there. There are similar, you know, there are other areas, you know, certainly folks are noticing, as we talked about that, any thoughts about harming yourself not wanting to be here, you know, I have to say really firmly and clearly, I can certainly speak for the calling veterans network, we are not in the business of wanting to put people in the hospital or take their rights away from them. I think that's a big scary topic that people really worry if I say this, you know, you're going to throw me in the hospital, no one's going to throw anybody in the hospital, if somebody is really acutely not able to keep themselves safe, of course, we're going to work with them to make a plan to keep them safe. Because safety is a prerequisite to wellness, you have to be here to get well, but our clinics really put a focus on collaborating, always. So we're going to make that plan together, we're going to work through that together. Usually what that means is just a safety plan, right? Usually it means you know, we're going to talk about hey, how what coping skills do you have? If thinking like that comes up? Who can you lean on for support? You know, is there a professional network? Is there a social support network, right? How are we just going to make the environment safer. And then as we go through treatment, we need that plan less and less, right. But that's why it's a prereq. So certainly, if we're at that place, other kind of key indicators that I think, you know, on that more kind of kind of a queue kind of crisis and are if folks are noticing that they are a loved one are drinking or drugging a lot more having problems with other like impulsive or compulsive behaviors. So things like you know, binge eating, or not eating, restricting, you know, gambling, any impulsive or compulsive sexual behavior, right. So all those ways that people can kind of cope with tough emotions, and they can kind of start working on problems of their own, we really want to kind of catch those as quickly as we can and actually know that the pandemic has fueled a lot of that kind of coping behavior, because we were all locked in our houses by ourselves, right, it was not a great time, we couldn't get to the gym, we couldn't hang out with loved ones, right, we couldn't use a lot of those helpful coping strategies. And so a lot of other things have cropped up in place. But again, that's that kind of that's that end growth like call sooner than later, right? If you notice, those things are coming up, because the faster we catch it, and the faster we can kick it. The other plug, I would just say, again, kind of being in a pandemic context is we know that a lot of relationships have been very stressed. And so if you feel like you, yourself, or a loved one have gotten into unhealthy relationship patterns, if you feel like your loved one is being, you know, certainly physically violent or coercive, but also just, you know, out of control, or you feel like a loved one is asking you not to see people or go places, those are just good times to check in. Because we can, again, we do a lot of couples work and we can really be helpful at that level to to make sure the whole family system is healthy.


Amanda Huffman24:30

Yeah, those are really important topics to talk about and things that I don't think people often think about.


Dr. Leah Blain24:36

Yeah. And that's why we call it like behavioral health, right? Because you know, how we feel and what we're thinking impacts what we do, physically, our behaviors, right. So if I'm feeling down and depressed and thinking I'm the worst, I'm going to be more likely to potentially drink or cut or what have you, right, they all flow together. And so that, I think it can just be it means that we can use any of them as an indicator, like our guiding light is what I call it like, hey, if this is showing up, if you're beating yourself up all the time, or if you're, you know, not taking good care of yourself, if you're using these strategies that are, you know, maybe causing your own problems, all of those are good indicators of like, might be a good time to touch base. And I think people are really surprised at how quickly they can turn those patterns around. Or like we often when we're making a game plan with somebody we're planning for, like, hey, let's look at what we can do in 12 weeks, we can always reassess, we can tailor it from there, that's fine. But you I think people are shocked at how quickly they can make change if they really put a price and put the work in.


Amanda Huffman25:35

Yeah, I remember when I first started going to celebrate recovery, I was really struggling with anger. And I was like spinning out of control. And I was like, if I just never get angry again, then I'll feel better. And then I learned like anger is an emotion and like you have to learn how to manage it. And I I don't even know if I still believe like at the year point when they give you like chips to hit different occasions. And I went on stage. And I just started crying because I couldn't believe how much my life had changed in one year. And I went from being like, hopeless and feeling like I had no control over my emotions to having all these tools so that I could, you know, and it was just like, night and day. And it was only a year and I started feeling better way before the year point. But you know, that milestone was a big milestone, and it was just so much life change.


Dr. Leah Blain26:27

It's amazing. And I think I feel like that's like sometimes people will ask me like, Why do you do you know, how do you do the work? or Why do you do that work? It's like, Really? So I do a lot of trauma work, right? So we're talking quite literally, I'm talking to people I have just met about the very worst things that have ever happened to them. Right? Like that's and and I love that work, right? I don't love that these things happen. I wish they hadn't. Sometimes I'm quite angry that they did. But when you make that space and get in there and talk about it, you can't take away what happened, it still happened, but how it sits with you in your everyday life and how you carry it forward with you. I mean, I've seen people who have had PTSD for 40 years not meet criteria for PTSD, PTSD anymore, like not have symptoms, eight weeks later. It's it's almost miraculous. Yeah. And it is. And I think the fact that, you know, we're using these evidence based treatments. And again, I just go back to that to say like, that's why I'm such a believer is we know it like it doesn't just work for a minute it lasts, right? Like, it gives people tools that helps them figure out, hey, this is what wasn't working. Now I have a different thing that I can do when this comes up, I have a different kind of way of being with these memories or with these thoughts or what have you. And you can take that forward forever. Right? I yeah. And it sounds like you've had a similar experience like that learning those tools and different strategies, and it changes you period. Like for good.


Amanda Huffman27:46

Yeah, now I've added meditation to my practice. And it's amazing how, like, right before we did this interview, my kids were trying to get everything ready with the TV and it wasn't working, and I was gonna be late. And normally. And I was like, you know, if I'm five minutes late, they'll understand. And instead of getting worked up, and even my son started getting worked up, I was like, we don't need to freak out, we'll figure it out. And like, let's just stay calm. And and it's just before I would have been in like such a tizzy. And like, I still felt my emotions go up. But instead of like freaking out, we just restarted the TV. And then it worked. was like it's not that big of a deal. Instead of yelling, screaming and freaking out, we just calmly work through it. And then I was two minutes late, and it was fine. And it's not so much better of a story than like, everything fell apart. And then I came in here crying and like had to do the interview.


Dr. Leah Blain28:44

You were still two minutes late, and everything was a mess. And I think like I love that you found meditation as well, these we really encourage, we don't use that as a core of our practice. But we really we know that it's a really nice compliment with the types of treatments that we do. Because the so at the core, we do a lot of what's called cognitive behavioral therapy, right? So that's a fancy schmancy for saying like, what you think and what you feel, and what you end up doing are all interwoven, right. And so what we do is like, if we catch that thought of like, Oh my god, it's gonna be a mess, and I'm not gonna be able to get there on time, they're gonna be mad, right? Like when that spiral starts, we don't even notice it. And then all of a sudden, we're acting like that stuff is true. So step one is touching and figuring out like, okay, I feel my emotions, you know, I physically feel the sensations rising and I'm noticing that like, I'm starting to have this thought process going and catching it is key. If you don't catch it, you can't do anything differently. And that's where I think meditation is so helpful because it just helps people catch it faster Ambassador ambassador, you're still aware of what's on your mind and how's your body feeling? And it does, it gives you like a totally different sense of control when you can know like, you can trust yourself that when emotions happen because As you said, they will never get angry again. Like when emotions happen, you can trust yourself that you're going to respond effectively, right? Like, that's a game changer.


Amanda Huffman30:11

It is, yeah, meditations come up in the last month of episodes. And it gets me so excited because it really, I've been practicing almost a year. And it's just, it just has changed everything because like, I'm able to catch myself and I had all those tools before, but a lot of times, I wouldn't catch myself too after I was like halfway through the, you know, instead of the ramp up and like, and so it is because when you're meditating and you get distracted, the person guiding you always says like, Okay, come back, and then you catch yourself. And it's just a practice that you learn. And so it's, it's really helpful,


Dr. Leah Blain30:48

right. And then if you're practicing daily, or I encourage people, like, try three minutes a day, try three minutes a day when you're leaving work, like wherever you can build it in. And that process of checking in with yourself regularly also kind of keeps that toolkit fresh, right? Like you, you're mindful of your process all the time. So then when you really need it, right. And I think that's what's hard when people first start therapy is it's like, you know, you're starting therapy often because something's not feeling great. And then we need to build the tools. And that takes some time. So people are like, well, I want to be able to breathe when I'm at a tent. And I'm like, at a 10. Right now, you might need to just leave the room, just for a couple of weeks. But then it's again, it's so quick, where it's like, okay, I caught it, I was at a 10, I left the room. The next time I caught it, when I was on the way to attend, I was an eight and I left the room. And the next time I was at a six and I breathed in it worked, right? The next time it didn't even get to a six right like that, that progression, if you really work at it can it can work in in weeks. But that's and again, that's why we and it sounds like you're like hook line and sinker, you're ready for a coding clinic? Because it's like, you gotta make it consistent. You've got to have that one practice, what are you working on in between? And that's where people just see the change. And, you know, we used it when we were opening, we used to get a lot of questions about like, Well, why is it? You know, you you say it's time limited? And what you know, what is that about? And you know, I always tell people this little anecdote. So I'm a mother, just, you know, this part of the story. So I was doing trauma work when I was in grad school, and I was pregnant, and no money I worked with, in my five years of my graduate school, I got better faster than my clients when I was pregnant, because there is a visible clock in the room, right? It's like, we better get on this. We've only got like a month here, people and that idea that, you know, if you have all the time in the world, it'll take all the time in the world. But if we say hey, what can we get done in 12 weeks? What can we get done in eight weeks? You know, let's, let's try really hard and see where we get to. It's amazing how big it can go if you but you've got to focus and you've got to remove push it. And I think that's all of our clinicians, certainly my clinic and the clinicians, I know across our network, we are we are tough, we're loving, we adore our clients. But we are tough for a reason. Because we really want to see people make those changes. And we know they can.


Amanda Huffman33:07

Yeah, that's that's so powerful. And that I don't think we touched on it that you guys are like, you have a window of time that you're in the program. And then and then you can come back if you like have a life event or something like that. But it's not like continual care every week forever.


Dr. Leah Blain33:24

Yes. So it's not forever care. And that's definitely by design for it's twofold for on the first hand, it's because we know that folks, by and large, don't need forever care. That doesn't mean that some folks don't. And certainly, you know, if somebody comes in, we're making that care plan with them walk steps the whole way through. So when somebody is coming in, we're assessing, do they have insurance? And you know, what's the financial picture so that if when we're wrapping up, if they do need continued care, we want to make sure they have access, and that we have really good resources for them. And so while we're doing that, you know, we're figuring out, you know, what's the piece of the work that we're going to do? For some people, a lot of people I'd say about half of the folks we see it's the whole thing, right? For a lot of our folks, you know, they come in and it's, you know, it, was that anger that was driving them in? Or is that sleep, that's the issue, or they know, there's that trauma that they really have to dig into. And, you know, by the time we're wrapping up that work, whether it's you know, and for us it can it can range, right, so we say time limited, there's not a session count, it's just means that it's not forever, right? We have to set a goal and make sure we're working towards it. And then you know, for what we see is that as folks are wrapping up, they've learned these skills where lots of things are feeling better. And so a majority of our clients actually want to just go ahead and wrap up. And as you said, they know they can come back we offer what's called booster sessions, right? So like, hey, I need an accountability checkpoint a month out, or Hey, you know, I had this thing come up, right, like the pandemic is a great example. A lot of our clients call back in for boosters. And you know, it just took a couple sessions to be like, Hey, you got this, you have these skills, and that was so much easier for them than having to like go find a new therapist. You know, go through The whole rigmarole like they just needed like a little to not write little check up on what was going on. But, you know, for other folks where, you know, maybe if we're say we're dealing with anger, and there's trauma, right, and the first thing, they're like, you know, what, or if they're super, you know, if they're feeling suicidal, and there's, you know, depression, right, like, so when we're first coming in, we're gonna do what needs doing first, right? So if that angers popping off at work, or if you're feeling suicidal, and we need to help stabilize that, we're gonna do that together, we're going to start what we know we're going to do the piece we can. And if somebody says, like, Hey, you know, I need longer to really work on this depression. It's been with me for a decade, and I think I'm just going to need a longer time, then we help to get them to whatever that right next step is. So that allows our clients to really get a good, what we call a good dose of care, right? 


Amanda Huffman36:57

Yeah, no, that's really cool. Because I think when I was looking for therapy, I thought it was like a lifetime commitment, right. And even that aspect is kind of a barrier to care, because I'm a military spouse. And so I knew that eventually have to move, and then I'd have to start over again. And I just felt like, overwhelmed by having to do that. And it was when I was meeting with people and learning about like what Cohen does, and I was like, This is amazing. Like, people need to know about this, because the fact I had never heard anyone say that you could have healing from PTSD. I just thought it was like a lifetime diagnosis. And you just had to, like, be aware that like, something could come up and and just live with this, I guess, like a weight over your shoulders, instead of being like, No, you can actually like use these tools and strategies, and you can work through whatever's causing the trauma and find healing. And I was like, Wait, what? Because it, it's just, I just thought that I was just stuck with it for the rest of my life. And so


Dr. Leah Blain37:59

I know, I remember the first time somebody said that to me when I was in graduate school, and they had, they had been in therapy for 20 years. And they were like, I just thought you just did therapy is like maintenance. And, you know, that's what it was. And I would just always be this way. And I I mean, I didn't cry, but I wanted to cry. Because it's, it's as I said, it's always inspiring to me how quickly people can make change. And I think actually, I've seen it the most clearly with PTSD. And again, I you know, I am I'm talking to people about this all the time. And and I don't ever want to try to take away that, you know, we don't we don't have that men and black like a razor, you know, we don't erase the memory, you didn't not go through it. And we can't make something that's not okay. Okay, because it's just not right, we can't, we can't, we're not going to bend reality. But that we I think is the perfect way to describe it, right? That you can carry this with you differently. And it doesn't have to fill up your cup to the extent that you can't be present. And in those other ways that you want to in your life right now. Like being able to be present and be that mom or be that partner, whatever those things are that you're doing. And that memory made you who you are right along with really positive things, those really tough things we go through shape us so we wouldn't want to erase it. But we got to figure out another way to carry it forward.


Amanda Huffman39:17

Yeah, I can tell when my stress level is really high. There's certain things that I can't participate in, like escape rooms, and not that we're doing this during COVID. But when we were moving and I had the opportunity to do one and I was like so stressed and I knew that if I did it, I would like have a panic attack. So I just chose not to participate. Yeah, but I could feel that in my body because of the stress level of moving across the country. And so and we


Dr. Leah Blain39:43

all and I think that's the other thing is like we all learn things about ourselves and change as we go right. So it's like, you know, I it's okay to also realize like, Hey, I'm not going to do in this paper while I'm moving or like that's cool, but you know, if you're, you know, waking up with nightmares or you know, just angry or kind of losing valuable time and emotional energy in your life every day, that's the territory we want to reclaim, right? Like you should be able to sleep, you should be able to connect with your loved ones, you should be able to go out to eat and sit wherever you want. Right? Like, whoa, like, that's the kind of thing that we want to reclaim because that's everyday life. Right? Like, that's, that's the life and especially for our veterans, our military families, folks works so hard, they sacrificed so much, and they deserve to be just happy and present and probably not exactly carefree. Right? But you know, but at least relaxed and able to enjoy themselves much of the time. And that's what's really exciting. You know, I had a client that I was working with recently, I'm not going to say anything, just for confidentiality purposes. But um, you know, they, they had had, you know, had a deployment and when they first came in, that was what we thought we were working on. And then they were like, yeah, you know, something happened in childhood really was like, okay, because they think that the equation wasn't meeting up. And and I couldn't quite figure it out. And he was really feeling suicidal. And I was like, there's, there's more to this picture. And, you know, he finally shared what it was and what happened. And we, you know, we pivoted, we really focused our trauma work where it had started, and the deployment had exacerbated it, no question. But, you know, that wasn't the, that wasn't exactly where it started for him. And you know, is we do symptom measures, and his symptoms were coming down, and all that kind of stuff. And that's great. But, you know, he came to session one day, just smiling. And he just said, like, I just feel like myself, I hung out with my family, I had a great time, you know, I went to work, I was joking around. And I was just like, that's it. Like, that's when you know that it works, you just got so much bandwidth back by being able to take this weight off and put it in the past where it belongs. Right? Not that you can't think about it can talk about it, but just that you don't have to, it's not on you all the time. And so yeah, that's it's inspiring. It's really, I mean, it's, it's an honor to be able to really walk beside somebody through that process and get to see that and


Amanda Huffman41:59

that I was gonna end it. But I have to follow up. I think that a lot of trauma in deployments, at least from some of the stories that I've heard, are from like, past trauma of like childhood abuse, or different things. So is so that is a common theme that like, maybe you have PTSD, but there could be something underlying from your past that actually is causing the deployment. I know that's in my case, something happened in my past, and the deployment just made it go out of control.


Dr. Leah Blain42:29

Absolutely. And unfortunately, we actually know that our our veterans and service members are more likely than their civilian kind of same age counterparts to have experienced trauma in childhood. So they're actually our veterans and service members, just as a as a community are at higher risk. And then going through some of those stressors on top of it can amplify and bring, you know, even if there weren't symptoms from the trauma before it can really bring that out. And so I would say, you know, all of my colleagues who do trauma work in the veteran military space, most of the time, we're working on traumas that did not happen in service, but may have been exacerbated. And of course, you know, those same great treatments work for all different types of traumas. So it's not like you have to know well, should I go here? Or should I go there? If somebody is doing an evidence based trauma focused treatment, no matter what it is, it's going to be effective for you. But yeah, it's a it's definitely a known quantity. And I think it's something that anybody who works with veterans and service members a lot is ready for, they're not going to be surprised. You don't have to, you know, I think a lot of people say like, well, it was really related to service like in our space, that that doesn't matter if it happened to you as our veteran or servicemember. So we're here to support you with whatever it is.


Amanda Huffman43:41

Yeah, I'm really glad we touched on that, because that's an important topic to cover and something that that we didn't really think about, and then I'm so glad it came up. Yes. Is there anything that we didn't cover that you wanted to talk about that I missed? Or? Or final way to wrap it up?


Dr. Leah Blain43:57

You know, I guess, and and certainly, you know, one of the pieces that we do is to try to make it really easy to get in. Right. So I think that's, you know, that's always my my plug, I guess is this the all of what we talked about is that the silver lining on this cloud is that recovery and healing are possible. And so your podcast is National, if not International. And so I think you know, for folks looking for care. There are a lot of great options for veterans and service members and military family members, the calling veterans network is there they have a national web page, that's, you know, probably the best place to go. And so I think just that that idea, you know, just don't don't hesitate. Right. There's no there's no need to put it on hold. Yeah, I think that's my my final plug.


Amanda Huffman44:41

Yeah, and I have the link to both the komen veteran network, the National one and the University of Pennsylvania's con veteran network in the show notes so that people can find it really easily. Perfect. Yep,


Dr. Leah Blain44:53

go and veterans network.org. But it's Yeah, it's a long name.


Amanda Huffman44:57

Yeah. And I'll probably mention it in the introduction. Just to make it easy so that people have it from the beginning. But thank you so much for your time for the work that you're doing. For veterans. It's so important. And it just, it's just so exciting to hear all the positive things that are happening for veterans and their families.


Dr. Leah Blain45:15

Yeah, no, thank you so much for having me and for helping to spread the good word. I mean, I think, you know, you you being, you know, willing and open to share, you know, pieces of your story is, is, I think, so important and inspiring, because that's, you know, that people, you know, people hear you and you know, they've been there or they are there and I think, yeah, it's it's a lot of work ahead, but it's just, it's inspiring, and I really, I love your work on the side. Also, I've been listening to a lot of your podcasts and I appreciate you know, talking through the hard stuff, but also celebrating all the good stuff.


Amanda Huffman45:48

Yeah, I have the coolest job in the world.


Dr. Leah Blain45:53

You do Crusher.


Amanda Huffman45:55

Thank you so much. Thank you for listening to this week's episode of women of the military podcast. Do you love all things women in the military podcast become a subscriber so you never miss an episode and consider leaving a review. It really helps people find the podcast and helps the podcast to grow. Are you still listening? You could be a part of the mission of telling the stories of military women by joining me on patreon@patreon.com slash women of the military or you can order my book women of the military on Amazon. Every dollar helps to continue the work I am doing. Are you a business owner? Do you want to get your product or service in front of the women of the military podcast audience get in touch with a woman of the military podcast team to learn more all the links on how you can support women military podcasts are located in the show notes. Thanks again for listening and for your support.