UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 12 | Oct.
Helping Traumatized Soldiers cope with Civilian Life
Three-year study looks for answers
By Hilary Thomson
Helping Canadian soldiers overcome the effects of post-traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD) and make the transition to a civilian
career is the aim of a three-year study headed by UBC counselling
psychologist Marv Westwood.
A $104,000 grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities
Research Council (SSHRC) will allow Westwood and colleague
Prof. Bill Borgen to evaluate the Transition Program for Canadian
Peacekeeping Soldiers, a group-counselling program that he
launched in 2001.
Little research has been done on how exposure to traumatizing
events affects soldiers ability to make the transition
to home and work life, says Westwood, who works in the
Counselling Psychology program in the Faculty of Education.
He will work with three groups of 6-8 soldiers that have
served as peacekeepers and as soldiers in Vietnam. The original
program has been expanded to include a career strategies component
as well as partner awareness sessions.
Westwood will evaluate the programs immediate and
long-term effects through personal interviews and questionnaires
conducted before and after participation in the program and
at a six-month follow-up. The results will help counselors
better understand the process of change and transition in
the aftermath of traumatizing events, he says.
Peacekeeping soldiers are exposed to events such as atrocities
and torture, and retrieving and disposing of human remains.
They experience stress-related reactions such as PTSD at rates
as high as 35 per cent, says Westwood. Left untreated, these
reactions may result in aggressive behaviour, troubled relationships,
withdrawal and depression.
Returning peacekeeping soldiers have not been well-served
by existing counselling programs, says Westwood. We
hope this research will help develop therapies that recognize
the significance of their experiences.