How Does First Steps Recovery Provide Assistance for Veterans?

How Does First Steps Recovery Provide Assistance for Veterans?

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Veterans, active military members, and first responders often experience mental health or substance abuse issues because of the demands of their jobs. This is completely normal. These groups often experience mental health struggles, especially after encountering such overwhelming, traumatic, and painful situations. Veterans, specifically, may be coping with trauma, anxiety, depression, or substance use disorder (SUD) as a result of their duty. Finding assistance for veterans is extremely important in promoting long-term health and happiness.

At First Steps Recovery, veterans are one of the groups we specialize in serving. We provide numerous services for these clients, who are treated as unique individuals. Each client receives a personalized treatment plan to promote optimal and sustainable health.

When mental health conditions and substance abuse occur together, these are called co-occurring disorders. First Steps Recovery offers treatment for co-occurring disorders, which provides relief for many veterans.

Veterans and Mental Health Disorders

One of the more common mental health disorders for veterans is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is characterized by experiencing flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, and panic attacks due to traumatic stress. Symptoms of PTSD include avoidance of places that trigger stress, mood swings, distorted beliefs, emotional outbursts, and/or reckless behavior.

The type of stress many veterans have been exposed to affects the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex of the brain. These effects can lead to other mental health disorders as well, such as anxiety or depression.

Depression is a common mental health disorder that causes feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness. Someone may feel like their life is pointless. They may lose interest in activities or hobbies they previously enjoyed. Other symptoms include slow movement, lack of energy, consistent feelings of being tired, increased sleep, difficulty concentrating, weight gain or loss, and suicidal thoughts or ideation.

Veterans and Substance Use Disorder

Deployment is often associated with drug or alcohol use. However, rates of illicit drug use increase when active military members leave the service and become veterans. Cannabis use disorders, specifically, increased more than 50% in veterans between the years of 2002 and 2009.

In terms of prescription medication, veterans are at higher risk of accidental opioid overdoses. Heroin and synthetic opioids are the drugs most commonly implicated in opioid overdoses. As for alcohol, veterans surveyed are more likely to use alcohol during one month than the general population and they often report heavy use of alcohol during that time.

Assistance for Veterans Coping With Mental Health Disorders or Substance Use Disorder

Assistance is available for veterans coping with PTSD, anxiety, depression, and SUD. People are often told to take antidepressants to cope with the effects of trauma. However, other clinical and holistic therapies can be beneficial as well. At First Steps Recovery, veterans often participate in group and individual therapies as well as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) specifically.

During CBT sessions, clients uncover their thought processes in order to restructure their thinking about an event or events. This helps to eventually produce healthier thoughts, reactions, and behaviors. Harmful behaviors often stem from destructive thinking, and CBT can address this.

Veterans and Co-Occurring Disorders

Mental health disorders can be challenging to cope with, especially alone. Veterans, specifically, cope with many difficult experiences that are hard to open up about. Likewise, acknowledging these experiences and emotions may feel too overwhelming. Sometimes veterans turn to alcohol or drugs to help ease their mental health symptoms. However, veterans then create a dependency on alcohol or another substance, which then becomes an addiction.

Assistance for Veterans Coping With Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-occurring disorders are very complex. However, assistance for veterans is available. The veteran assistance program at First Steps Recovery offers specialized care for veterans experiencing mental health and SUD simultaneously.

In this program, clients are put into a detoxification program onsite that provides 24/7 supervision to ensure safety. Afterward, veterans can opt for one of the following options: residential treatment, a partial hospitalization program (PHP), or an intensive outpatient program (IOP). All of these programs offer the same treatments. The only difference is the program requirements and level of intensity. For instance, veterans who feel like they do not need intense supervised care may opt for the IOP instead of residential treatment.

Group Therapy for Veterans

However, it is important to note that because co-occurring disorders are challenging and complex, it is often best to begin treatment in a guided setting. Being surrounded by other veterans who have experienced similar events in their lives can offer a sense of comfort and hope for clients. Attending group therapy can have a healing effect on veterans who have been struggling alone.

Group therapy assists veterans by:

  • Strengthening support and motivation
  • Reducing isolation
  • Increasing social skills and the ability to connect emotionally
  • Teaching coping skills
  • Providing a safe space for expression
  • Increasing self-awareness
  • Improving cognitive flexibility
  • Exposing them to new and different perspectives
  • Helping them develop empathy, understanding, and compassion
  • Providing an opportunity to practice communication skills

It is important to take the first step and begin treatment. By seeking help, veterans can have a happier, healthier life without feeling restrained by difficult symptoms. First Steps Recovery is here to provide assistance for veterans in overcoming their challenges.

Here at First Steps Recovery, we understand that veterans are exposed to lots of challenging, difficult, and overwhelming experiences or emotions. Veterans often leave the military and develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder (SUD). In many cases, a combination of disorders exists, which is called co-occurring disorders. This typically stems from trauma, which causes the person to turn to alcohol or drugs for relief. We provide a number of services for veterans, both clinical and holistic. Group therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) are recommended to address all underlying issues as well as multiple disorders simultaneously. To learn more about the veterans assistance program, please call us at (844) 489-0836.

Meet Our Team
Meet Our Team

From our certified therapists and nurses to our emotional support animal "Cooper", our entire team is dedicated to the health and success of our clients throughout our program and beyond.

Help Is Available. Speak With Someone Today.

Our admission team is available to help 24/7.
Skip to content