Testimony in Support of "Train a Vet to Treat a Vet" Program
The Value of Veterans Competently Treating Veterans Good afternoon ladies and gentleman,
It’s an honor to come before you in support of the “Train a Vet to Treat a Vet Program”.
I am a former Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, a current doctoral student at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology (MSPP) and consequently an intern at an area VA. I’ll also be returning to active duty as a Navy Psychologist in about a year but today, I’m here as a private citizen of Massachusetts and veteran.
There are three things that I hope I’m able to articulate, that this program provides veterans: 1) opportunity for education and employment, 2) purpose and a sense of service for the Veteran-Therapist and 3) a mental health provider that knows a Veteran’s culture and maybe, something about their unique experiences.
I started this journey as a Private First Class in the Marine Corps, working with some of the most driven dreamers that I have ever met. They came from mostly impoverished inner cities and rural areas, and from families with little economic opportunities. And in my own family, although more socio-economically privileged, had their own struggle. My father, a Portuguese immigrant, graduated from the 6th grade into the life of a laborer and my mother, a high school graduate, sacrificed the promise of college to support her family.
The reason I will soon be, a Doctor of Psychology, isn’t because of the American Dream, or chance, or just because I worked hard. It’s because of the government’s investment in my education and training, specifically through the Montgomery GI Bill. But for many veterans like me, the possibility of pursuing a doctoral degree in psychology is a distant mirage. The program we’re supporting would help to make it a choice, an option for Veterans to serve again.
That sense of service is monumental in the lives of veterans, as I’m sure anyone in this room who has worn the uniform can attest to. When I returned to New England after helping defend the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah against an al-Qaeda assault in 2004, I had lost my connection to a larger purpose. It was a difficult time until my interview for admission at MSPP. There, the faculty member interviewing me explicitly said, “Greg, your needed. There will be a lot of Veterans coming home who will need someone that understands them.” And during my short time working with veterans, from the wars of Vietnam to Afghanistan, I can tell you with certainty, that being their therapist has done as much for my mental health as it may have for them.
It is because of MSPP, that I will dedicate my professional career to the service of military and veteran’s mental health needs.
If MSPP is given the opportunity, through the program we’re here supporting today, I will be amongst many veteran mental health providers in the workforce of Massachusetts—and that’s good news for the women and men who will be seeking treatment, coming from the military culture into the culture of therapy, which in my opinion, are two drastically different worlds.
In the Marine Corps we learned that emotional expression, vulnerability, and closeness in a relationship, were weaknesses and unacceptable. Yet these are the foundations of the therapeutic treatment for PTSD and any other mental health problems Veterans might need to work through. Just imagine, the powerful statement that is made to a Veteran when he or she sits across from a fellow warrior, well trained in the art and science of emotion, vulnerability, and relational closeness; That this fellow Veteran values and truly believes in the therapeutic process, as well as intimately understands the culture that they both lived and breathed. Powerful, yes. But more important, will be that the treatment occurs in relation to a well-trained Veteran-therapist.
That is where MSPP comes in. And that is where support for this unique program is needed. So I urge everyone in this room and all your legislative colleagues to support the “Train a Vet to Treat a Vet Program.” You’ll be supporting the Veteran-therapist, meeting the mental health needs of returning Veterans, and fostering life-long leaders and job creators in the workforce, which is always a solid investment.
Thank you for your time, and your service to our state, and country.