By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterJune 21, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 21, 2012) -- Behavioral issues affect not only Soldiers returning from combat, but also the Families of those that have served overseas.
That's why Behavioral Health at Lyster Army Health Clinic is there to provide treatment and care to Soldiers and Families that may suffer from such issues, according to Barry Funkhouser, chief of Behavioral Health and clinical psychologist for Lyster.
"We provide evaluation and treatment services for Soldiers and their beneficiaries that may have psychological or behavioral adjustment difficulties or needs," he said. "We see mostly Soldiers, but we try to support the spouses and Family members of those that are deployed as well."
Behavioral Health offers progressive treatments, such as yoga or biofeedback, to help combat the effects of post-traumatic stress and other behavioral issues, according to Funkhouser.
The organization also uses prolonged exposure treatment, which is used to get the Soldier to a point where he or she can talk about some of the difficult experiences that might have resulted in behavioral issues.
"We get them to try and talk about their experiences over and over until it doesn't cause them to have the same reaction that might have caused problems," he said. "We also do quite a bit of Family work … and we try to get them on the same page."
He said the majority of problems arise from post -deployment difficulties, like PTS, that Soldiers can develop from combat and the difference in mindset that they experience in their daily lives when returning home.
"Soldiers come back and they are still in the combat frame of mind that they had during deployment," he said. "They come [back home] and they may have different interpretations of an event [the occurred] that can create some tension in their lives."
Lt. Col. Sean Hollonbeck, deputy commander for clinical services at Lyster, described the frame of mind that Soldiers have as "battle minded."
"If you're in the military, you should have the battle mind that you're a warrior and you should have a warrior ethos regardless of your job," he said, adding that the issues come up when Soldiers that return home are unable to turn off that battle-minded frame of mind.
"When [a Soldier] returns from war, it's hard to turn that off," said Hollonbeck. "Spouses don't always [understand] it."
When a spouse doesn't understand why the Soldier is acting differently or isn't acting as social, Funkhouser said they might take it personally, which can create problems.
"[The returning Soldier] can be very withdrawn or they could be hesitant to go out into social situations because they feel uncomfortable or threatened," he said. "There can be a miscommunication or misinterpretation by spouses or Family members, and they might take it personally thinking that the Soldier doesn't want to spend time with them.
"Simply pointing out the fact that it's not personal can be helpful so that [the spouses or Family members] don't personalize that behavior," said the clinical psychologist. "One of the first things we do with Soldiers is to try to help them understand the difficulties they are having."
Educating Soldiers and Family members to help them understand the issues that they are having and where they stem from is important to the treatment process, he said, adding that letting Soldiers know that they are not alone and that PTS is a real issue is also important.
"We need young Soldiers to know that PTS is real," said Hollonbeck. "Senior leaders have it and I'll argue that most people that have deployed and seen combat, whether they know it or not, have PTS."
Hollonbeck admitted that he also suffers from PTS having experienced losses in combat, and said that the treatment he receives is on a personal level, which is the type of treatment that behavioral health can provide to others that suffer from behavioral issues.
"My therapist knows me well enough and one of the things recommended for me, on top of what I already do, is reading," he said. "We want to empower our service members and have them understand that it's normal. I think the way we do that is by getting a lot of the senior leaders on this post to step forward, so, I put that challenge out there."