I went to an organizational meeting for the Soldiers Project NW(SP)last night. Forty-two people were there. Therapists from all over the Puget Sound region, one from Yakima, and even one from California. About 10 were veterans. Several had worked for the VA. The rest were people who heard about it and wanted to help. Several expressed despair or shame at the current level of services available for soldiers and veterans and excitement at the possibility of righting the situation.

Trisha Pearce and Lisa Weinberg convened the meeting. They’ve been working since October to connect with the LA-based project, a 501C3, which started the first chapter. They invited Michelle (whose last name I didn’t get), a social worker from the Seattle VA to talk about the interface with VA. SP volunteers will work with people who either don’t qualify for, or don’t want to interact with VA and the military for mental health needs. We’ll work with active duty, honorably and dishonorably discharged soldiers and their families and friends. We can refer appropriate people to the VA for services, if they want to be referred.

There are seven simple rules for SPNW volunteers:

  1. You agree to provide one hour a week of mental health support or tx at no charge.
  2. You agree not to accept donations, insurance payment or barter for services provided.
  3. You agree to educate yourself on the effects of trauma, war and the treatment of combat PTSD and how to refer for veteran’s benefits. If you work with families, children, or women you will educate yourself on their special needs.
  4. You agree to screen referrals to determine whether they are appropriate your scope of training, and, if not, refer them back to the SPNW referral system.
  5. You agree to conduct this pro bono work with the same high ethical and professioanl standards as in your general practice.
  6. You agree to keep in touch with SPNW about your availability and practice info.
  7. You agree to maintain appropriate malpractice insurance that covers your work with clients (including those seen at no cost through this project) in private practice.

These are the most simple and elegant membership rules I’ve ever seen. They all make sense, and they don’t dictate how to do the therapy. The only other rules I heard were about the neccessity to be licensed or on the licensure track.

There are plans for support and training of we therapists. I requested information on Traumatic Brain Injury, about which I know little. I offered to do a basic traumatology workshop. The conveners gave us piles of paper full of information, including many information-filled websites for clinicians and active duty people, veterans, and their families. I think that EMDR HAP could get involved, since it’s a non-profit, and will be contacting the main office soon, to find out.

If you want to join, volunteer in some other capacity or want more information, contact Trisha Pearce at  soldiersprojectnw@yahoo.com .