The VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System is expanding therapy services to victims of military sexual trauma by using some of the latest advancements in telehealth technology.
In an effort to assist those unable to travel for face-to-face MST counseling sessions, clinical psychologists now provide therapy to Veterans using smartphones, tablets and computers with webcams in their homes. “We highly recommend in-person MST therapy whenever possible, but Veterans cannot always make the trip,” said Dr. Nicole Anders (pictured above), a clinical psychologist who oversees the MST program.
“This option, while not the preferred method to counsel those with MST-related needs, opens more therapy doors for those in need and is better than no treatment at all.”
Veterans who want to use the in-home telehealth counselling must first receive a referral from their provider. Once a request is approved, he or she receives an emailed link to join an online session.
Overcoming the stigma
According to VA statistics, one in four women and one in one-hundred men report they have experienced sexual assault or repeated sexual harassment during military service. One hurdle that trauma counselors must overcome is the stigma surrounding sexual assault, especially among men. Telehealth has the potential to help gradually introduce MST victims to therapy and build trusting relationships with counselors.
“We don’t realize how much our lives can be affected by the secrets we keep,” Anders said. “If we are feeling emotionally upset it can affect our physical health and our relationships. Mental health is so important and is connected to all aspects of our lives. It’s very important to find a safe space to open up about issues. Time does not heal all wounds and it won’t go away without some work. But we are here to help.”
Veterans who have experienced MST related issues can get assistance by seeing their primary care provider and requesting a referral for face-to-face or telehealth counseling sessions.