In a recent Pineland Underground podcast, Sergeant Major Joshua Thompson spoke about his experiences searching for therapy during his military career. Although he found a resource that worked for him, I was concerned about his experience with the on-base behavioral health services. He and the host spoke about a lack of care and service from the treatment provider. That is unfortunate and I hope that provider corrected their behavior. Behavioral health treatment is too important to be outside of the expected band of excellence for our soldiers and their families.
His initial experience is unfortunate, but thankfully Sergeant Major Thompson found a venue that works for him: Give An Hour, an on-call resource that seeks to “expand no-cost, barrier-free mental health care for those impacted by human-made traumas.” It is powerful hearing Special Forces NCOs speak of their trauma with candor and vulnerability, and it is wonderful that so many listeners heard the benefits of behavioral health therapy, Give An Hour, and other resources.
I’d like to offer a resource that was mentioned only in part. That resource is you.
To be radically candid, the resource is you and your wallet.
There is a myriad of low-cost or free services available to soldiers. Military OneSource is a great place to start. On-post behavior health services are available at larger installations with specific providers for special operations soldiers. Local or military hospitals may have treatment providers available on an emergency basis. If necessary, on-base hospitals can help soldiers get into in-patient and out-patient treatment programs.
It is unfortunate if a mental health provider dismisses your concerns, fails to listen, or does not meet the expected level of case. I am not going to counsel anyone to give such a failed professional relationship a second try. I also know that some on-base services may have wait times longer than two weeks. Again, that is dependent on your location. Overall, many people are trained, ready, and willing to help. I’ve used some of them, often simultaneously. So what I counsel is to stake ownership in your therapy.
Do some research, find a therapist that resonates with you, open your wallet, and do the uncomfortable work.
It will hurt your monetary bottom line… initially.
Hourly rates often cost between $75-120 a session. Once a week or twice a month is not cheap.
However, this is your health and well-being we are talking about. What is your mental health worth to you? What is your physical health worth to you? What would it be like to live without chaos, addiction, or mental overload? That serenity is priceless but as with anything worth obtaining, there is a cost associated. It comes through hard work and hard work that is guided by a professional costs money.
You are worth it.
We are talking about mental health and preventative maintenance for the mind and body. $120 is jump pay, professional pay, and maybe language pay if you rate any specialty pays. Budget it in and stick to it, even if you can only go once a month.
I cannot change the pay tables for enlisted soldiers. What I can do is model a good example. I’ve opened my wallet every month since 2018 for private therapy. I winced at the credit card statements early on too. Between group sessions once a week and individual therapy twice a month it was around $360 a month. That’s a car payment or a food budget for a lot of folks. It was not cheap, but here’s the thing: divorce, addiction, alimony, child support, wage garnishment, hospital care, and funeral expenses aren’t cheap either. Rock bottom is not just emotionally draining; it is an expensive endeavor.
So that’s the choice: A couple of hundred dollars a month for the tools to heal versus a lifetime of continued pain to yourself and those you love. That’s it.
Think of it as preventative maintenance. Treat it like a necessary expense. Budget it in like food for your body or gas for your car. Tell yourself that if you don’t go to therapy your rock bottom moment might end up on the front page news. Whatever it takes to start the road to recovery, do it. Once you get into a rhythm, you and your provider can scale your treatment as needed and many will talk in plain and simple terms about how to approach paying for your care.
If you need those free resources, start with Military OneSource, on-base behavioral health, unit Chaplains, or even local, anonymous addiction 12-step groups. They can connect you to additional resources, sometimes at low-to-no cost. As a word of caution, do not expect one source of treatment to be a cure-all. If one venue does not resonate, try the next and keep moving forward for your health. Just be prepared to open up your wallet and pay for your care, at least for a while.
Because ultimately you have to want it for yourself.
The therapy works if you work it.
You are worth it.
Marshall McGurk served nearly five years with the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) after a stint with the 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized). He enjoys scotch, cigars, good books, foreign films, and critical thinking. He is passionate about international relations, domestic affairs, and successful veteran transition. He serves in the Army Reserve. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter.
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