Listening to Veterans
The Welcome Johnny and Jane Home Project:
Friday, May 24
9:00 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
After this training participants will be able to:
describe alternatives that both therapists and nontherapists can use to help veterans -- and their loved ones -- toward healing
VA leaders have expressed alarm for more than a decade at the steadily rising rates of indices of suffering in war veterans, including suicides (now at 22 per day), homelessness, family breakdown, and substance abuse. Despite their hiring of vast numbers of psychotherapists and authorizing the prescribing of enormous amounts of psychiatric drugs, the rates of problems have continued to increase.
There is an epidemic of disconnection between veterans from all wars and people who have not served in the military, which feeds this suffering and makes it clear that communities must do more to help. Many people want to help but mistakenly assume that there is nothing they can do if they are not therapists, but nothing could be further from the truth.
A Harvard Kennedy School study of The Welcome Johnny and Jane Home Project showed that having a person who is not a therapist listen -- really just listen, not interview -- to the story of a veteran from any war helped the veteran toward healing and was transformative for the listener. Involvement of nontherapists in the community offers effective, low-risk alternatives to reduce the soul-crushing isolation in which so many veterans of all wars currently live.
Paula J. Caplan, Ph.D., is a clinical and research psychologist and Associate at Harvard University's DuBois Institute. She received her A.B. with honors from Radcliffe College of Harvard University and her M.A. and Ph.D. in psychology from Duke University.
Previously, she spent two years as a Fellow in the Women and Public Policy Program of Harvard Kennedy School, both at Harvard University. She has been a Lecturer at Harvard, teaching Myths of Motherhood; Girls' and Women's Psychological Development over the Lifespan; and Psychology of Sex and Gender. She is former Full Professor of Applied Psychology and Head of the Centre for Women's Studies in Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, where she also headed the School Psychology and Community Psychology programs, and former Lecturer in Women's Studies and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto.
Dr. Caplan is also an advocate, activist, and playwright, author of 11 books and editor of a 12th, and author of dozens of book chapters and articles in scholarly journals, as well as of numerous articles and essays in popular publications. She has given hundreds of invited addresses and invited workshops and done more than 1,000 media interviews.
Dr. Caplan's latest book, When Johnny and Jane Come Marching Home: How All of Us Can Help Veterans (MIT Press), won three national awards, including the prestigious PROSE Award for Best Psychology Book of 2011 from the Association of American Publishers and Groundbreaking Book of the Month from Independent Publishers. She created and coordinates both The Welcome Johnny and Jane Home Project (civilians listening -- simply listening -- one-to-one to veterans' stories) and The Welcome Johnny and Jane Home Coalition, on behalf of which she advocates for changes on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. She has written three plays about veterans, including SHADES, which won the top prize for new plays in both NYC and LA competitions.
WELCOME JOHNNY AND JANE HOME PROJECT
With only about 1% of the American population serving in the military and going to war, veterans and military families are some of the most neglected people in America today. The rest of us, the 99% who don't know what they experienced at war and now trying to come home, often cannot imagine how to connect with them.
The Welcome Johnny and Jane Home Project works to end what Col. (Ret.) David Sutherland, founder and former head of the Pentagon's Warrior and Family Support Program, calls the "epidemic of disconnection" between war veterans and their wider, home communities. This disconnection is a major cause of the high rates of suicides, homelessness, family breakdown, and substance abuse among veterans, and it is transforming our nation in troubling ways that we are only beginning to comprehend. The Welcome Johnny and Jane Home Project wants to increase human connections in ways to reduce that suffering.
Despite all the "Support Our Troops" talk, only a tiny number of civilians have become actively involved in helping individual veterans transition home, even veterans from much earlier wars. The Welcome Johnny and Jane Home Project aims to bridge that gap, helping to ignite community participation, and we do it in the simple but astonishingly effective way of simply having one civilian just listen, really listen to one veteran's story.
A recent study at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government shows that simply listening to veterans demonstrated the healing power of these listening sessions. That is why the project is sometimes called The Listening Project. As its founder, Dr. Caplan has said about the sessions, "There is nothing fancy about it, but it works. We used to call it friendship. We used to call it human connection."
Dr. Caplan has been working with veterans for 11 years and has become familiar with the wide array of services provided for them by government and by nonprofits. She knows of nothing other than their project that requires so little to get to the direct provision of help for veterans and certainly nothing other than theirs that has no overhead. For instance, groups that help get veterans jobs or education tend to leave out the crucial component of the human connection that breaks down the isolation in which many remain even in their workplaces or institutions of higher education. No wonder the rates of indices of suffering continue to rise.
All of Dr. Caplan’s work is pro bono, and the project is just beginning to try to raise a little money -- which is tax deductible through a 501(c)3 called VIDCAPT -- in order to produce some video materials that will make it possible for any group or individual to get access for free to the information they need in order to do listening sessions. She can provide information about where to send donations.
FILM, “SERVICE: WHEN WOMEN COME MARCHING HOME”
SERVICE, the film, portrays the courage of several women veterans as they transition from active duty to their civilian lives. We see the horrific traumas they faced, their invisible as well as physical injuries and all their challenges in receiving benefits and care. We follow them through the large and small accomplishments they work mightily to achieve.
From the deserts of Afghanistan to rural Tennessee, from Iraq to New York City, we watch these women wrestle with prosthetics, homelessness, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Military Sexual Trauma. The documentary is told through their voices as they speak from their kitchens, bedrooms, grocery stores and therapy sessions. Their pictures and videos shot in Iraq and Afghanistan speak volumes.
The film is part of a much larger project. Through robust social media, SERVICE continues supporting women through open and closed Facebook groups where women can exchange information, find friendship and share solutions that have changed their lives.
Women compose 14% of today's military forces. That number is expected to double in 10 years. Service introduces the issues faced by this wave of mothers, daughters and sisters as they return home. We want to wake up a sleeping civilian population to the challenges women face.
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Unless otherwise indicated, all programs are basic to intermediate educational programs directed to practicing clinicians in mental health fields. Some programs will have application to other health care professionals as well.
All programs offer continuing education credits for psychologists, social workers, mental health counselors, and marriage and family therapists. In order to receive a continuing education certificate, participants must attend programs in their entirety (or 80% of scheduled multi-week programs), as well as complete an evaluation form. Certificates will be distributed at the end of each program.
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