Monday, June 17, 2024

Veterans need more mental health counselors, William and Mary will be the first to train them

Military service fosters resilience in both individuals and families, but many service members experience significant mental health or substance abuse challenges during and following their service.

The National Council for Behavioral Health reports that while 30 percent of military personnel deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan have a mental health condition requiring treatment, less than half of those returning veterans receive the mental health services they need.

William & Mary is the first university in the Commonwealth to train counselors specifically to work with veterans and their families through a new master’s program in the School of Education focusing on military and veterans counseling. Students can choose from online and on-campus options for the degree.

“We’re proud to have the opportunity to train competent and compassionate counselors with a specialized understanding of military and veteran issues,” says Rip McAdams, professor and chair of the School Psychology and Counselor Education department.

“Veterans and their families have unique needs, and it’s gratifying to see those needs recognized and supported here at the School of Education and across the commonwealth.”

The program trains counselors to work with veterans and their families on issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, the emotional impacts of physical injury, long-term family separation and the transition from military to civilian life.

The military and veterans program is a specialization of the school’s nationally-recognized and CACREP-accredited clinical mental health counseling program. It prepares students for licensure as a professional counselor, with a special focus on working with military-affiliated clients.

Inside professor Rip McAdams’s classroom

McAdams has been the driving force behind the development of the program at William & Mary. A veteran himself, he describes the project as both personally and professionally satisfying. He served in U.S. Naval Special Operations from 1969-1975 before pursuing a professional and academic career in counseling.

“When I came out of the military, there were very few resources to help us deal with the personal challenges we encountered and make that transition back to civilian life. As a country, we’ve made a lot of progress since then, but there’s still more we can be doing to be responsive to the needs of veterans.”

Online and on-campus options offer students the flexibility to pursue the program in the format and timeline that suit them best. The on-campus degree is a full-time program typically completed in two years, while the online program is part-time and can be completed in approximately three years.

Field experiences are a critical component of the program, with supervised practica and internships offering students extensive experience working directly with military veterans and their families.

“We owe veterans and their families not only a debt of gratitude but also our service,” says Spencer Niles, dean of the School of Education. “We’re honored to play this role in supporting their needs by preparing counselors who can help them live peaceful and productive lives.”

Applications to both the on-campus and online programs are now open for 2020 enrollment. Learn more here.

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