Treating Hidden Wounds in Our Veterans

Many of the wounds sustained by our military veterans are invisible.

In addition to physical trauma, those who serve our country often witness or directly experience horrific circumstances that can overwhelm their capacity to endure. Unfortunately, more often than not, these experiences are repeated and cumulative.

“Our veterans have little or no opportunity to grieve or process what’s happened to them and their comrades while they are deployed, and they frequently face service-related trauma (SRT) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as they try to reintegrate into civilian life,” says Iris Perlstein, LCADC, LPC, ATR-BC, director of Allied Clinical Therapies and Clinical Specialist for Princeton House Behavioral Health’s First Responder Treatment Services. “SRT is a newer, broader term to incorporate any trauma resulting from service, while PTSD is characterized by failure to recover after experiencing or witnessing a specific terrifying event or series of events. It’s not unusual for individuals who have experienced traumatic events to have flashbacks, night terrors, or intrusive memories.”

Typically, a significant amount of time passes before veterans elect to enter treatment. Rather than addressing the trauma, they may find themselves seeking treatment for the development of a compounded problem like substance abuse or marital issues.

“The word surrender is generally not in the vocabulary of anyone who serves,” says Michael Bizzarro, PhD, LCSW, BCD, director of clinical services for the program. “But seeking treatment is probably one of the only times in their lives that ‘surrender’ means you win. The trauma we’re seeing in veterans is unique, and our staff members are trained in prolonged exposure therapy to help them work through it and move on.”

First Responder Treatment Services provides inpatient, evidence-based treatment for trauma-related disorders in veterans, giving them the opportunity to combat isolation and process their experiences among peers in a supportive group setting. Treatment includes many facets, such as a grief group, expressive groups like art therapy, and sometimes even interaction with service dogs.

The program has provided treatment for 257 veterans since its inception. At least 70 have gone on to become police officers or corrections officers after completing treatment.

To learn more about the program, please call 888.437.1610/outpatient or 800.242.2550/inpatient or visit princetonhouse.org/firstresponder.


Article as seen in the Winter 2017 issue of Princeton House Behavioral Health.