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Virtual Boot Camp for Civilian Mental Health Professionals

Focus on the Military and their Families

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.

Virtual Boot Camp for Civilian

Mental Health Professionals

An Immersion Program into the Realities of

Veterans Returning Home From Iraq (OIF) and Afghanistan (OEF)


Goal of Program:

The goal of this program it to immerse civilian Mental Health Professionals into the military lifestyle, military speak, and realities of “boots on the ground” experiences of the troops who have spent time in the wars in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF-Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) since 2001. It is known that these veterans and active military suffer from a variety of war related conditions not the least of which are: war related physical impairments, TBI, PTSD, battle stress, and the physical and emotional wear and tear of multiple deployments to the battle fields. This population of veterans have not only fought in a war setting unlike any other fought in by previous veterans but have also faced the unfortunate perils of the economic downturn in the American society, placing them at risk for unemployment, under-employment, home foreclosures, poverty and eventual homelessness. A Rand study has shown that at the current time only about 50% of veterans seek services through the VA system and that there is a good possibility that civilian mental health practitioners in the community will come in contact with Veterans who needed their services and it is imperative that these mental health professionals be cognizant of the military experience of these Veterans.

Tools of the Program:

Participants in this virtual Boot Camp will become immersed in the life of the military who have been in either OEF or OIF and have returned home by Taking Online Courses and watching a number of videos which will enable the viewers to feel the emotional realities of the time spent by the military in these wars. The participants will become immersed in the review of the issues of Resilience, Battle or Combat Stress, PTSD, TBI and Post-Deployment Depression.

Online Resources to Prepare Boot Camp Civilian Recruits for this Immersion Experience

The following Online resources are made available by the DOD and VA to help counselors to better understand the needs of active and veteran military. They are excellent resources so please consider them as you begin to prepare yourself to better serve your military clients.

1. PTSD 101

PTSD 101 is a web-based curriculum that offers courses related to PTSD and trauma. The goal is to develop or enhance practitioner knowledge of trauma and its treatment.

The goal for its use in this Boot Camp is for the participant to at least complete The Military Culture Module and  then Modules 1-6 of this excellent program developed by the VA’s PTSD Center available at:

Understanding Military Culture when Treating PTSD This course is a supplementary module for PTSD 101 which is a required course for recruits in this boot camp.

Topics in PTSD 101

Module 1: What is PTSD?

Module 2: Assessment of PTSD

Module 3: Cognitive Behavioral Psychotherapies

Module 4: Overview of VA/DoD 2010 Clinical Guidelines For PTSD 

Module 5: Pharmacological Treatment of PTSD

Module 6: Recommendation for Acute Stress Management and Prevention of PTSD

Handouts which go along with PTSD 101 Modules 1-6

1. VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for Management of Post-Traumatic Stress

click here to download

2. Explosions and Blast Injuries: A Primer for Clinicians click here to download

3. Traumatic Brain Injury Survival Guide: click here to download

4. Report of (VA) Consensus Conference: Practice Recommendations for Treatment of Veterans with Comorbid Substance Abuse and PTSD: click here to download

5. Psychological First Aid: Field Operations Guide 2nd Edition: click here to download

2. Home Base Program at:

Home Base has trained more than 12,500 healthcare providers and clinicians across the US in our evidence-based treatment programs.  Their Programs include: 

A. From the War Zone to the Home Front: Supporting the Mental Health of Veterans and Families.One in three U.S. service members returning from Iraq or Afghanistan will experience signs of combat stress, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or symptoms of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Only 50% receive their health care through the VA. Other vets and their families will seek care in community settings by primary care and community mental health clinicians. The Home Base Program in collaboration with the Veteran Administration’s National Center for PTSD is providing this free educational series to assist clinicians in the diagnosis and treatment of the silent wounds of war in returning veterans and their families. This online interactive educational series is led by nationally recognized faculty with expertise in diagnosing and treating PTSD and TBI with traditional and complementary evidence-based therapy. The faculty will also address the needs of military families and review how to recognize and treat the emotional stress present in spouses, parents, and children of veterans with PTSD and TBI. Click here to link to this program of on demand training for professionals

B. Multi-Session Clinical Education 4-week on-demand course provides a comprehensive overview of diagnostic criteria, assessment techniques, recovery patterns, and rehabilitation strategies for traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Click here to link to page on which this program is listed

3. Treating the Invisible Wounds of War

Army OneSource has launched a formal campaign, supported by the U.S. Army, to encourage civilian health and Behavioral Health providers to complete a FREE online course in the series titled, "Treating the Invisible Wounds of War." This series of courses was designed to help primary care physicians, case workers, mental health providers, and other professionals - who may see a veteran or family member on an unrelated issue - develop a better understanding of the culture in which Service Members and Veterans, as well as their Families, live and work. The course also provides best practices for identifying, assessing, and treating Behavioral Health problems that result from the trauma of war.

For the flyer with instructions on how to enroll in this free online CEU program click here to download.
4. Traumatic Brain Injury A to Z
Part 1: Short course on TBI for Mental Health Counselors - an overview of TBI and its co-occuring conditions along with a myriad of resources for Mental Health Practitioners to utilize in working with clients and their families who are dealing with the aftermath of TBI in their lives. To get to this course on Click here

Part 2: On there is a weath of information which practitioners and civilians need to at least observe to gain a better understanding of the impact of combat based TBI. There are five sections to review
1. The Brain-an overview of the brain, its parts and functions at:
4. Caregiver's Journey-Online Training for Caregivers at:
5. Personal Journeys-Survivors and Caregivers share their stories at:
5. Real Warriors - Real Battles - Real Strength at
The Real Warriors Campaign is an initiative launched by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) to promote the processes of building resilience, facilitating recovery and supporting reintegration of returning service members, veterans and their families.

This site provides a number of videos which can be utilized with active and veteran military members and their families to promote them seeking help for themselves of the visible and invisible wounds from their miliary service.

An overview video called: Real Warriors and Reintegration can be viewed at:


The Virtual Boot Camp Videos


Video #1: Cover Me (2009) – Movie put out by The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund for Marines and their families to inform them about “Combat Stress” and the need to get themselves emotional support to cope with it once they get back from the warfront. 30 minutes.

Free to observe online at:


Video #2: WARTORN 1861-2010 (2010) – An HBO Documentary by Producer James Gandolfini which focuses on the realities of the invisible wounds which veterans have brought home from the warfront since the Civil War. 68 minutes. Information on this film at:


Video #3: Let There Be Light (1946 original and distributed in 2007) – A World War II Documentary by Director 

John Huston which suppressed for 30 years due to its disturbing nature and subject matter which was the emotional toll war had on its veterans. 58 minutes. Can view for fee at:


Video #4: Alive Day Memories Home from Iraq – The Fight Has Just Begun (2007) – An HBO Documentary by Producer James Gandolfini about ten soldiers and Marines who share their feelings on their future, their severe disabilities and their devotion to America. 57 minutes. Information on this film at:



Video #5: The Hurt Locker (2008) – The winner of 6 Academy Awards for its vivid portrayal of the realities of the war in Iraq. 90 minutes. Can view for fee at:


Video #6: Restrepo-One Platoon, One Valley, One Year (2010) A National Geographic Documentary Directed by the late Tim Hetherington (1970-2010), that chronicles the deployment of a platoon of US Soldiers in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. 90 minutes.

National Geographic site for film where you can watch scene by scene at:


Video #7: The Wounded Platoon (2010) This PBS Frontline Documentary follows the Third Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion of the 506th Infantry and how the war followed them home. Clearly shows the impact of multiple deployments and PTSD and its impact on American soldiers. 90 minutes. Watch full program online at:

Video #8: Combat Diary-The Marines of Lima Company (2006) A documentary with home videos by the Marines who were part of the hardest hit combat unit of the Iraq War. 90 minutes. Can view for a fee at:


Video #9: The Ground Truth: The Human Cost of War-Sometimes the Greatest Act of Courage is to Tell the Truth (2006) Watch soldiers in Iraq War ground conflict and then how these reluctant heroes face the challenge upon their return home. 78 minutes.

Can be viewed online at:


Video #10: The War Tapes (2007) This documentary was filmed by the soldiers themselves as they faced the enemy in Iraq. It gives an intimate glimpse of the lives of soldiers in the midst of war. 97 minutes. Can view for a fee at:


Video #11: Brothers at War – Two Brothers Went to Fight and One Went to Find out Why (2009) This documentary follows Jake Rademacher as he sets out to understand the experience, sacrifice and motivation of his two brothers serving in Iraq. It also follows the brothers home and shows the impact of their service on the loved ones they left behind. 109 minutes .The film’s website at:


Video #12: Lioness (2008) This documentary follows five female soldiers in Iraq and illuminates the emotional and psychological effects of war from a uniquely female perspective. 81 minutes. The Films site and blog is at: . You can watch the film for a fee at:


Video #13: Hell and Back Again (2011) This documentary , nominated for a Documentary of the Year Academy Award in 2012, followed Marines in Echo Company during an assault in Afghanistan in 2009. Sargent Harris’s unit was attacked from all sides. The action in war was followed until the Marines returned to the US. Prior to their deployment however Sargent Harris received a life-threatening injury and the documentary follows him home where with love and support from his wife he worked through this life-changing transition. An eye-opener to the needs of returning troops.  88 minutes. The film’s site is at:  You can watch the film for a fee at: 

Video #14: Uniform Betrayal:Rape in the Military (2012) This documentary about Military Sexual Trauma (MST) covers the issue of MST in the military and the emotional, legal and organizational ramifications of this issue among active and retired military. 57 minutes. This films site where you can watch this free documentary is at:

Video # 15: The Invisible War (2012) This documentary explores in depth the epidemic proportion of rape of female and military members by their fellow commrades and in some instances their superior officers. It is a an emotionally draining video to watch but gives great insight into the Military Sexual Trauma issues facing Vets today. 137 minutes. You can gain more information on this video at:

Video #16: American Sniper (2014) This movie is about U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle who was sent to Iraq for four tours. His only one mission was to protect his brothers-in-arms. He continued his committment to his fellow military by assisting veterans who came home like him with the injuries of combat. Special focus was on how his PTSD had a major impact on his wife, marriage and family life. 2 hours 13 minutes.You can gain more information on the movie at:

Recommended Schedule of Viewing Videos in the Virtual Boot Camp   


Viewing Session 1:

Main Topic: Impact of Deployment on the Military and their Families

  • Cover Me 30 minutes
  • The Ground Truth 78 minutes
  • Brothers at War 109 minutes
  • American Sniper 2 hours 13 minutes


Viewing Session 2:

Main Topic: PTSD and TBI what is it and what are the Evidenced Based Treatments to treat it

  • WARTORN 1861-2010  68 minutes
  • Let There Be Light 58 minutes
  • The Wounded Platoon 90 minutes
  • Hell and Back Again 88 minute


Viewing Session 3:

Main Topic: Psychological First Aid for Returning Military and their Families

  • Combat Diary-The Marines of Lima Company 90 minutes
  • The War Tapes 97 minutes
  • Lioness 81 minutes
  • Uniform Betrayal: Rape in the Military 57 minutes
  • The Invisible War 137 minutes


Viewing Session 4:

Main Topic: Traumatic Brain Injury, what is it and what are the Evidenced Based Treatment to treat it

  • Alive Day Memories Home from Iraq – The Fight Has Just Begun 57 minutes
  • The Hurt Locker  90 minutes
  • Restrepo-One Platoon, One Valley, One Year 90 minutes