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MSPP Rapport

A Newsletter from the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology

MSPP’s 2010 commencement speaker is a “Thoroughly Modern Do-Gooder,” says the New York Times

There are two ways to increase employment for young blacks and Latinos, said President Barack Obama at a press conference on June 23, 2009. One, “get the whole economy moving again,” and two, duplicate the efforts of programs like one he visited in honor of Father’s Day that year. This program helps inner city youth prepare for the corporate world, not only technically, but also right down to the way to dress and write an email, said Obama.

Year UpThe program the President mentioned and visited is Year Up, the brainchild of Gerald Chertavian, who was recently named in a New York Times op-ed piece, along with others like Bill Gates, as one of a new breed of “Do-Gooders.” According to columnist David Brooks, people like Chertavian have “plenty of resume bling,” dress like venture capitalists, and yet have the hearts and dedication of social activists.

Year Up’s name bespeaks its mission: it gives low-income, and often disenfranchised youth, not just a “leg up,” but a “year up.” Its goal is nothing less than to take the next step in the civil rights movement: close America's "opportunity divide" by giving talented, at-risk young people tools to get out of the minimum-wage rut, support themselves, and pay for further education, according to a 2008 Boston Globe article. In that article, Chertavian described the mission of Year Up as “a matter of social justice. It's unacceptable,” he said, “that we live in a society where we see the divides growing larger rather than smaller and don't try to do something about it.”

Gerald ChertavianThis year, MSPP chose this entrepreneur/social activist to be its 2010 Commencement speaker and to receive an honorary doctor of letters degree on Sunday, June 6, 2010. According to MSPP President, Dr. Nicholas Covino, Chertavian was a unanimous choice on the part of the faculty, board and administration.

“This is an extremely successful businessman who has taken his talent for business and put it to use guiding young people,” says Covino. “His focus on the disparities in our society and the need for the more fortunate of us to give back is central to the educational and public service philosophy and mission of MSPP,” he adds. “Gerald Chertavian's presence and his message will continue to remind graduates of these values and inspire them as they venture out into a diverse and challenging work environment themselves.”

Chertavian, a Harvard Business School honors graduate, founded Year Up in 2001 following the sale of his international Internet company Conduit Communications, the last stop in a corporate career that took him from Wall Street to London and throughout the world. From 1993 to 1998, Conduit ranked as one of England’s fastest growing companies.

When i-Cube bought Conduit in 1999, Chertavian was free to turn his full attention to his passion for creating opportunities for urban youth, a passion ignited by 20 years of volunteer work with the Big Brothers mentoring program.

At “Year Up” young adults between 18 and 24 spend the first six months learning technical, professional and communication skills needed to enter the corporate world. In addition to studying computers and finance, they also learn to dress, walk, talk and interact as professionals. At the end of the first six months, they put their new skills to work as apprentices in major corporations.

According to a Boston Globe article the “Year Up has set itself apart because of its impressive record of success.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation estimates that 4.3 million American youth are struggling to find their place in this society. According to the Boston Globe article the “Year Up has set itself apart (from other job training programs) because of its impressive record of success – more than 85 percent of its alumni land a job that pays better than $35,000 a year within four months of graduation…nearly half also continue their postsecondary education.”

The program will serve more than 1,000 students this year across the country in the cities of Atlanta, Boston, Providence, New York City, Washington DC, San Francisco and Chicago. Year Up works with more than 90 corporate partners, including AOL, Bank of America, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Boston Medical Center, CVS/pharmacy, Digitas, Dunkin Brands, Fidelity Investments, Freddie Mac, Google, Gillette, Merrill Lynch, Partners HealthCare, and State Street Corporation.

The recipient of the 2003 Social Entrepreneurship Award by the Manhattan Institute and the 2005 Freedom House Archie R. Williams, Jr. Technology Award, Chertavian and his work have been featured in Time Magazine, Fortune Small Business, BusinessWeek, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Boston Business Journal and The Christian Science Monitor.

In 2007, Chertavian was elected as a Fellow with the Ashoka Global Fellowship of social entrepreneurs for his innovative approach to social change and as a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization. In 2008, Chertavian was appointed by Massachusetts’ Governor Deval Patrick to serve on the MA State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

To witness President Obama’s visit to Year Up or learn more about Gerald Chertavian and his organization, go to To see press release with excerpts from Chertavian's commencement address, click here.

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Lucero Run/Walk 2010Join us for the 9th Annual Lucero Memorial 5k!
September 26, 2010 at 10:30 am

Register online!

New doctoral program will meet career needs of school psychologists and mental health needs of children

First class begins this summer 2010. We will be accepting applications for summer 2011 beginning in August.

Bob Lichtenstein“After several years in the schools, most specialist-level school psychologists see a need to acquire additional knowledge and skill to meet the challenges of their jobs and offer the best possible services to children and families,” says Dr. Bob Lichtenstein, Director of School Psychology at MSPP. Unfortunately, too often these professionals hesitate to go back to school because they don’t want to interrupt their careers, adds Lichtenstein.

In response to this recognized need and circumstance, MSPP has created a new Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) program in School Psychology specifically designed to accommodate working school psychologists. The program will offer summer and online courses that lead participants to degree completion in two to four years.

As a profession within the field, school psychology has evolved to meet the changing needs of schools and the students they serve. Initially focused on assessing children for learning problems, psychologists in schools today are also expected to work with parents, provide mental health counseling and consultation, develop individual education and treatment plans, and coordinate with community agencies to ensure adequate and just support for the children in their care. It is little wonder the role has been cited by a recent edition of US News and World Report as one in great demand. School psychologists must also navigate pressing issues of violence, bullying and substance abuse in schools “and are often called upon to take on leadership roles in addressing these very challenging problems,” asserts Lichtenstein.

There is a desperate need in the United States for more highly qualified school psychologists to address the critical shortages and shortcomings in the current mental health care system

There is a desperate need in the United States for more highly qualified school psychologists to address the critical shortages and shortcomings in the current mental health care system. The U.S. government’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health (2003) reported that five to nine percent of school-age children struggle with serious mental illness. Treatments proven to be effective often fail to reach consumers, and it is estimated that only 10 percent of children with diagnosable mental health issues are served by the existing workforce of mental health specialists.

“Schools have a unique capacity to provide behavioral and social-emotional supports for children on a broad scale. In fact, they already provide over 70 percent of the mental health services received by children and adolescents,” says Lichtenstein. The new PsyD program at MSPP is designed to prepare the school psychologist for this new and broader level of service. “A psychologist with this degree will be able to function as a more advanced mental health provider, to supervise other psychologists and counselors, and to instruct potential school psychologists in higher education settings. They will also be equipped to take on administrative responsibilities and to work in private sector settings,” states Lichtenstein.

MSPP’s new PsyD program will be one of only two such school psychology programs in New England. Unlike traditional PhD programs, the program focuses on integrating coursework and clinical practice rather than theory and research. An added strength of the program is its strong emphasis on mental health promotion and disease prevention.

Three years ago MSPP began to address concerns over the mental health of the nation’s children by creating a specialist level (MA/CAGS) training program for school psychologists. In spring, 2009, the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education gave final approval for the school to offer a program at the PsyD level. “The doctorate will be the third step in the sequence of training for those interested in caring for children in the school systems,” says Lichtenstein.

“This program will train highly capable, socially responsible practitioners in an area of profound need and is designed to meet program approval standards of the American Psychological Association and the National Association of School Psychologists,” says MSPP President Nick Covino, PsyD.

Learn more about the Master’s level and PsyD programs in School Psychology

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Praise for a Trail Blazer

Dr. RobinsonDr. John D. Robinson II quietly comments that he has been a trail blazer for others. It is a modest reference to the impressive and far-reaching contributions he has made as a psychologist and educator in both his civilian and military life. A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Harvard University, Dr. Robinson has served the psychological community at local and national levels for decades. A former trustee of the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology (MSPP), Dr. Robinson endowed a scholarship fund for the school in 1982. Scholarships generated by the endowment not only support students of ethnically diverse backgrounds, but students who have served in military combat areas since 2001. In honor of his professional accomplishments and commitment to future clinicians, Dr. John Robinson was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from MSPP in June, 2000.

Over the course of a long career, Dr. Robinson has faced and transcended the challenge of being a racial minority in his professional world. He was the first black administrator at the University of Texas at Austin, the first black psychologist in the United States Air Force in 1973, and served as the first black psychologist in the Navy in 1975. “As a black professional officer in the U.S. Navy with a great deal of authority and rank, I became very aware of the attitudinal changes in the military population as I began to be treated more equally,” he notes. Dr. Robinson continues to serve military personnel today as a Distinguished Visiting Professor for the United States Air Force, Army and Navy. Reflects Dr. Robinson, “I believe in giving back to the military, especially to combat personnel, even though I have never seen combat myself.”

Robinson BookToday Dr. Robinson shares his personal and professional experiences in an ever-widening variety of contexts. A writer and author, his book “Diversity in Human Interactions: The Tapestry of America,” is used extensively for diversity training in both military and university settings. “I wrote it because of my experiences of being a minority psychologist in a majority civilian and military population,” he explains.

As the first Board Certified ethnic minority “organ transplant” psychologist in the United States, he shares his gifts and expertise with the world of medicine as well. He has been invited to give numerous presentations and written papers on transplantation to the medical community, amongst them, “The Psychology of Organ Transplantation in Minorities and Ethnic Minority Issues in Organ Transplantation.” The process of organ transplant has always been of great interest to him, and he comments that in the past ethnic minorities were seldom organ donors because they were not afforded the education to make such an informed decision and choice. Sadly, ethnic minorities were also frequently excluded as potential organ recipients.

Currently a Professor of Surgery and Psychiatry at Howard University College of Medicine, and a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine, Dr. Robinson has been an active social voice in the arena of professional psychology at the national level as well. A Fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA), he has served as Chair of the APA Membership Committee/Board, and received several awards for his outstanding teaching, mentoring and service to the profession. He was recently appointed to a third non-consecutive term on the Board of Psychology of the District of Columbia and will serve as the board’s Chair during his tenure. A past President of the American Board of Clinical Psychology within the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) and of the Chair of the Ethics Committee for ABPP, Dr. Robinson currently serves as President of the American Board of Clinical Health Psychology for the organization.

Dr. John Robinson
Dr. Robinson sets the bar high, believing that society and the people the psychology profession serves deserve the support of well-trained clinicians. “Psychologists should be trained to provide and have a professional duty and obligation to give culturally competent, relevant, diverse and compassionate services for their patients that are experienced-based and appropriate. These services should have a basis in and understanding of the culture, history, and sociology of the population being served, be that gender, ethnicity, culture, social environment, sexual orientation, or economics,” Dr. Robinson says.

Throughout his long and distinguished career, the young Dr. Robinson has transformed his work ethic, philosophies and moral and social commitments into service and action. The son of a Baptist minister in Houston, Texas, early in his career young Dr. Robinson taught music, science and math in a private Catholic high school. Music remained a passion, and today he still commits time to the art community through engagement with the Board of Directors for the New Orleans Symphony and the Georgetown Symphony Orchestra.

From an early age, Dr. John Robinson’s life has been full and lived in service to others. His message of social justice is reflected in the work he has done on behalf of the psychology profession and in the words and invitation he offers to future clinicians. “Students must give back. Somebody helped them, and now it is time to give back professionally and with public and community service.”

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2010 Gala


MSPP Annual Gala — Next Spring!
Friday, April 29, 2011

MSPP takes action on veteran-related mental health issues

When a soldier in World War I suffered from a mental disorder, it was frequently understood as shell shock, the Great War’s name for an emotional reaction to combat. Every man has his breaking point, military doctors thought at that time, believing that more than 90 days of continuous combat could turn any soldier into a psychological casualty.

One-third of the 1.6 million American troops deployed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have experienced depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Today, the name of the disorder has changed, but the psychological impact that military combat has on soldiers has not. Statistics show that nearly one-third of the 1.6 million American troops deployed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have experienced depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In 2009, the U.S. Army reported the highest tally of soldier suicides since accurate military record keeping began, further confirming the psychological harm that military combat places on soldiers. Says MSPP President Nick Covino, “War is not over when the shooting stops; a soldier never forgets, and the fallout from the mental health challenges of today’s soldiers is vast and descends most immediately to close relations and friends, then to the broader community.”

Such startling statistics invite every mental health professional to consider how they might best serve the needs of returning veterans. “Psychologists and other mental health professionals have a special role to play in helping veterans and their families to cope with the aftermath of war,” says Covino, who has committed the school to increasing awareness of veterans’ mental health issues and the training necessary to meet their needs. “We have an increased responsibility and must gain more expertise. The military is really, in many ways, a different culture, with morals, customs and special needs that mental health professionals need to understand,” he says.

As part of its commitment, MSPP has become a proud participant in the Yellow Ribbon Program, a provision of the Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008. The program allows U.S. institutions of higher learning to voluntarily enter into an agreement with the Veterans Administration to fund tuition expenses that exceed the highest public in-state undergraduate tuition rate. Beginning in academic year 2009-2010, qualifying veterans are awarded a $5000 grant from the Veterans Administration, with a matching $5000 grant from MSPP.

Yellow Ribbon Campaign Fundraiser(Left to right): MSPP President Nick Covino, Navy Reserve Commander Marybeth O’Sullivan, MA State Rep. Carolyn Dykema, Lt. Governer Timothy P. Murray, and MSPP Student & Veteran Greg Matos at the Yellow Ribbon Campaign fundraising event on May 27, 2010.

This past May, MSPP hosted a special fundraiser at the Belmont Country Club to support the Yellow Ribbon Scholarship Campaign. The MC for the evening was Lieutenant Governer Timothy Murray. To date, six veterans and one reservist are enrolled in MSPP degree programs.

This issue of Rapport highlights other initiatives taken by the MSPP community in response to veteran needs, including a daylong professional conference, added course curriculum, and veteran-run activities sponsored by the school’s Office of Multicultural Affairs/Community Service.

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Focusing on Culture—MSPP’s Student Veterans and Military

Greg MatosThanks to second-year PsyD student and former United States Marine, Greg Matos, MSPP experienced an authentic glimpse of military “culture” through a variety of events hosted at the school in November.

“We define culture in the broadest of terms and want our community to be open and welcoming to all,” says Gretchen Nash, Director of Multicultural Affairs/Community Service at MSPP. “Our programming shows MSPP’s commitment to its students, whatever their background, to feel nurtured and respected during their time at the School, and hopefully, beyond.”

Matos’ outreach to MSPP’s student military community was the impetus for developing programming specific to military issues. Realizing they shared a common experience brought to light a greater sense of what it meant to be a veteran at MSPP, and opened the door to a rich conversation about what binds them. Matt Percy, fourth year PsyD student and Navy veteran, expressed his surprise at discovering others with military background at the School. Percy felt how refreshing it was to talk about his experiences, which earlier he had only shared with a few peers.

Meals Ready to Eat (MRE)

Thanks to Sam Newland, retired Army veteran and student in MSPP’s Organizational Psychology program, the school received a donation of 80 “Meals Ready to Eat” (MRE’s) from the Department of Defense Combat Feeding Program, allowing MSPP to host a “chow hall.” Students and staff learned how to prepare the meals, tasted a variety of “dishes,” and spoke with student veterans about their military experiences. Participants also tried on body armor to garner a sense of what it feels like to carry extra physical and emotional weight out in the field.

Chow Hall November 2009Sam Newland (left) explaining the different parts of the body armor to Sandy Dixon (right).

A viewing of the film, “Taking Chance,” capped the afternoon event. The film focuses on a fallen soldier’s journey home. Chosen by MSPP student vets for its uniquely non-political view of the war in Iraq, the film pays tribute to the men and women who lost their lives in military service, and includes a tribute to the soldiers’ families.

To carry on the spirit of current programming and foster continued awareness of veterans’ issues and mental health needs, MSPP began an “Adopt-A-Troop” program in January, 2010. The initiative allows the School community- students, staff, and faculty- to nominate friends, family members or loved ones who have been deployed to be adopted by the school. Community members work together and assemble personalized care packages to send these soldiers overseas. Seven military personnel already have been nominated, and efforts are underway to reach out to these new members of the MSPP family.

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Military Psychologist in Training

Norman G. (Trey) Tippens intends to return to the U.S. Army as a military psychologist following his student training at MSPP.

Trey TippensA combat-trained soldier for three years (2003 to 2006), Tippens chose to enter the Army Reserves to serve in military intelligence rather than re-enlist for combat duty. Eventually, he intends to serve as a military psychologist. “When I was in military training and overseas, I was sensitive to the fact that any one of us, under stress, could face psychological issues,” says Tippens.

Tippens spent two and one half years in Korea. Upon receiving his Sergeant’s stripes he was put in charge of 12 soldiers, many of whom had seen combat. Tippens admits he was uneasy about his new responsibilities, because “his men” had been in combat and he had not.

“It was a balancing act. When I first met with the men, I explained that while I respected them, I also was responsible for being their leader. My uneasiness was unfounded, however, because I came to realize that just being in the military as comrades was a shared experience. We became a family, and I knew when they were hurting and listened to them. When I told them I intended to become a psychologist, they frequently came to me just to talk,” Tippens reflects.

“As a soldier and a leader it puts me in a unique position to help others. I especially feel that as psychologists we must have earlier interventions with soldiers suffering with mental health issues."

He finds vocational fulfillment in the military and understands it is a culture unto itself. “As a soldier and a leader, it puts me in a unique position to help others. I especially feel that as psychologists we must have earlier interventions with soldiers suffering with mental health issues. If a soldier tries to commit suicide, when it gets to that point, it is too late.”

The military offered Tippens a sense of freedom that has allowed him to more fully understand his own identity. The son of a rural Virginia Methodist minister, he is aware that he frequently received job offers because he was the minister’s son. A position within the real estate business was one such opportunity, yet Tippens did not find fulfillment in the work.

At 23, he joined the military, a career that provided him with growth opportunities and a sense of accomplishment because of who he proved himself to be and not because he was the minister’s son. “It never mattered who you were or how much money you had. It only depended on how you performed in any given situation,” reflects Tippens.

Tippens’s psychology training at MSPP further broadened his self-awareness through an increased exposure to diverse cultures. As part of the required Diversity and Cross-Cultural Psychology course, he visited a mosque and gained enhanced knowledge of the Muslim culture. It was an experience that broadened his understanding of the religious diversity that surrounds him in his military work. Tippens states that it was only a few years ago that the Army began to offer cross-cultural training to soldiers with respect to the countries where they would be deployed. Now, because of his education at MSPP along, with his own outreach efforts, Tippens has achieved an even greater understanding of Muslim life and culture.

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Meeting the Needs of Returning Veterans—An Introductory Course

When MSPP President Nick Covino introduced the Yellow Ribbon Scholarship Program to the MSPP faculty, he stressed that he wanted the School to focus on veteran’s issues.

Sandy Dixon, PsyDIn response, faculty member Sandy Dixon, PsyD, offered to develop an introductory course focused on the needs of returning veterans. To develop the curriculum, Dixon referenced her personal experience of working at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Bedford, MA, an experience that included both an internship and post-doctoral year.

“While there, I provided individual therapy, group therapy, testing, and emergency walk-in service to veterans ranging in age from 21 to 85, and I worked in both inpatient and outpatient settings,” says Dixon. “I also helped with program development for their outpatient mental health clinic as it expanded due to the increase in veterans returning from the current war,” she says. “I have a brother-in-law who is currently on his second tour of duty in Iraq, and I know about the struggles of military families, as I see my sister being a single mom to their two sons for the second time.”

“The psychological requirements of soldiers, particularly during war and most poignantly as they return to civilian life, are often unfamiliar territory for psychologists.”

The new course, Meeting the Needs of Returning Veterans, debuted at MSPP this spring. “The course focuses on the experiences and mental health needs of military personnel and their families, particularly those who are returning to civilian life after serving in the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, reflects Dixon. “The psychological requirements of soldiers, particularly during war and most poignantly as they return to civilian life, are often unfamiliar territory for psychologists.” The class will also explore the VA system and other services that may be useful resources for both clinicians and veterans.

According to Dixon, while the Veterans Administration (VA) Department was created to provide medical and mental health care specifically to this population, only ten percent of veterans make use of the VA. Most receive medical and mental health care through civilian avenues, which means that most psychologists will, at some point in their careers, work with clients who are veterans.

MSPP is proud to meet the needs of both veterans and the clinicians who serve them through this new curriculum initiative.

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Veteran Speaks Out

Eu Choo left his native Korea at the age of three to move to New Jersey with his parents.

Eu ChooOn September 11, 2001, Choo prepared to take the oath of citizenship at a federal building in New Jersey. Terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center kept him from fulfilling that dream. Years later, as a member of the Marine Corps Reserves, Choo returned to New Jersey to secure his citizenship.

A reservist from 2000 to 2006, Choo was deployed to Iraq to support operations to overtake Baghdad. While he did not engage in direct combat, his position in Iraq was integral to the troop’s mission. As a fuel specialist, he coordinated fuel provisions for vehicles traveling from various points in battle. His workdays included 20-hour watch shifts. “I spent most of the time alone and looking out into the desert,” he says. “It gave me a great deal of time to think about how short life is, and that I should do something with my life once I return home.” Although Choo experienced intense stress in Iraq due to the heat and constant warnings of chemical attacks, overall he found his military experience a positive one.

“For the military, the first big step is to talk about one’s own experiences. For the non-military, there is a need to encourage soldiers to share their personal feelings concerning their military life and challenges.”

Upon returning home, Choo pursued an associate’s degree as well as a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Seton Hall University in New Jersey. While at Seton Hall, the school’s dean counseled him about a future in psychology. It was an interest that had been sparked in Choo’s sophomore year, prior to his entrance in the military.

Currently in his third year of the PsyD program, Choo is particularly interested in the forensic specialty track and working with patients in the court system. And he is willing to speak out to create general awareness of military life and the experience of being in battle. “For the military, the first big step is to talk about one’s own experiences. For the non-military, there is a need to encourage soldiers to share their personal feelings concerning their military life and challenges.”

Choo’s personal journey has brought him to a new place in his career trajectory. MSPP is proud to count him amongst its student body, and grateful for the rich life experience and diversity he offers the MSPP community.

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Day-long Conference on Veterans Mental Health Gains Media Interest

On November 20, 2009, MSPP held a day-long professional conference, open to the public, that addressed issues of mental health care for veterans. Journalist, Reginald Zimmerman, of the West Roxbury Tribune covered the day’s event. His article was picked up by a number of military news services and blogs. Zimmerman’s piece captured the issues and spirit of the day so very well that we elicited his permission to share it here.

Helping our Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
By Reginald Zimmerman
Posted Nov 27, 2009 @ 02:23

From the Civil War to the Vietnam War, it has been called nostalgia, shell shock, soldier’s heart and battle fatigue, but today the diagnosis sounds far more clinical: post-traumatic stress disorder.

On Nov. 20, the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology partnered with the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services and held an eight-hour conference on educating and caring for the mental health needs of veterans and their families.

More than 100 mental health-care providers and educators came together to discuss treating veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, brain trauma sustained in the line of duty, depression and suicide intervention.

“As a culture, we tend to celebrate the upside of conflict,” said MSPP President Nicholas Covino in his opening remarks to the symposium, calling PTSD “a major mental health issue” that has been neglected since the Vietnam era. PTSD, an anxiety disorder that can plague soldiers returning from combat, is a debilitating condition that can occur after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened.

Since October 2001, more than 1.7 million soldiers have been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. Of them, nearly 280,000 have been sent back for at least one more tour of duty.

Thomas Kelley, secretary of the state veterans’ office, lost one eye while serving as a U.S. Navy lieutenant in Vietnam. A recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor — the nation’s highest military honor— Kelley, 70, who had addressed the audience, later said mental health-care workers are not always equipped to treat the needs of returning soldiers.

“I’m trying to let people know when men and women come out of the service, especially if they’ve been in combat in a war zone, that they’re going to come back as a changed person,” said Kelley, a retired captain. “They’ve been under stress and they’re re-entering a new environment, and our job, all of us, should [be to] try to keep that stress from becoming a disorder.”

Since October 2001, more than 1.7 million soldiers have been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. Of them, nearly 280,000 have been sent back for at least one more tour of duty, according to the National Center for PSTD, a research arm of the federal Department of Veterans Affairs.

Meanwhile, veteran’s affairs officials said there has also been a resurgence of PTSD in Vietnam veterans. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, there has been a 59 percent increase in Vietnam veterans seeking counseling, the center reported.

Navy Reserve Commander Marybeth O’Sullivan, 56, of Brockton, said support might come from people other than health-care professionals, such as a civilian neighbor or classmate.

“It’s the everyday person in the community who is going to be empowered — that needs be empowered — to help with reintegration,” she said.

40 percent of those in the military experiencing mental health problems refuse treatment due to a fear that seeking treatment could hurt their image, ruin their military career or limit civilian job opportunities.

O’Sullivan, a nurse with a 24-year military career, said she had “a vested interest” in the conference. Her son and son-in-law have served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Referring to tales from Homer’s “Iliad,” O’Sullivan spoke for an hour about the psychological consequences of war.

“As long as we’ve had war, there’s been PTSD,” said O’Sullivan, who spoke of the way Greek war hero Achilles reacted — smearing himself with ash and fasting — to death of his friend, Patroclus.

Symptoms of PTSD include mood changes, anxiety, flashbacks and emotional numbness.

She said the general population might be scared to approach the issue.

“Because of what they may remember — and maybe even feel some guilt — feeling and thinking about Vietnam vets who were not getting any help,” O’Sullivan said.

Post-traumatic stress disorder was given a name in the late 1980s, more than a decade after the end of the Vietnam conflict, she said.

In addition to PTSD, O’Sullivan also talked to mental health-care workers about mild traumatic brain injury, a type of head injury that 20 percent of military personnel reported to have been exposed to in combat. “Getting out of the military is a tough enough challenge,” O’Sullivan said.

“Getting out of the military after seeing some stuff — bad stuff — and doing some rough stuff? It’s a whole other experience.”

Holly Marston, 29, has seen what the trauma of war can do to a loved one. Her father served in Vietnam. Now, she is one of seven outreach coordinators for Mass SAVE, Statewide Advocacy for Veterans’ Empowerment.

The group defines its mission as suicide prevention and benefits advocacy. Marston said some veterans are “not getting the help they need.”

“That could put them on the path to a better life,” she said.

“This is a new culture — there are values, [morals], customs, special needs that mental health practitioners really need to understand.”

O’Sullivan said one of the obstacles is that more than 40 percent of those in the military experiencing mental health problems refuse treatment due to a fear that seeking treatment could hurt their image, ruin their military career or limit civilian job opportunities.

Covino said mental health professionals have an increased responsibilities but the clinical expertise is insufficient.

The school plans to have additional conferences in March and June to discuss PTSD and the effects on families.

“We have 1.6 million returning veterans and [an] equally large number of family members that are going to be touched by this,” Covino said. “This is a new culture — there are values, [morals], customs, special needs that mental health practitioners really need to understand.”

For more information about the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, visit To learn more about veteran’s services in Massachusetts, visit

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Look for our next issue of the MSPPrapport in the Fall. If there are topics you would like to read about, please contact Katio O'Hare at

Updated 7/18/12

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