Investigating therapeutic retreats for military personnel and their families

Published: 1 Sep 2016

Author: Amanda Wood
Investigating therapeutic retreats for military personnel and their families

Dr Amanda Wood, a Chartered Counselling Psychologist at Cleveland Psychology, has recently returned from eight weeks in the USA, where she researched the provision of psychological support for military families, in particular children. Amanda’s travels were enabled by a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travelling Fellowship Award, with support from the Mental Health Foundation.

Psychological conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) are legitimate war wounds, yet stigma around them remains a barrier to seeking treatment. Moreover, the UK’s Armed Forces Covenant (2011) places the nation under a moral obligation to provide fair treatment to members of the Armed Forces and their families.

During her Fellowship, Amanda, from Bishop Auckland, was invited by Ann Brown, Programme Director at the Lone Survivor Foundation, to attend a therapeutic retreat for veterans. Amanda also had the opportunity to observe a retreat for Special Forces organised by the Brian Bill Foundation. The retreat programme was initially developed in 2009 by Denise Grant, a social worker. The current programme at Lone Survivor consists of a five-day retreat incorporating a unique combination of psycho-education, neurofeedback, yoga, equine assisted therapy and Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART), and has seen participants report rapid and effective progress within a short amount of time.

Amanda also met Dr Harold Wain, Chief of the Psychiatry Consultation Liaison Service at Walter Reed Army Medical Centre, and Rory Brosius, Deputy Director of Joining Forces, a national initiative launched by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr Jill Biden to support and honour America’s service members and families. Joining Forces focuses on employment, education and wellness, and raises awareness of the service, sacrifice and needs of military families.

“The Churchill Fellowship has enabled me to gain invaluable experience and cutting edge knowledge within my chosen field. Importantly, the legacy of Winston Churchill has enabled me to gain access to people and places which would otherwise be impossible” -Amanda Wood

Since returning to the UK, Amanda has begun writing a report on her research findings. Through collaborating with fellow professionals she met while in the USA, she intends to develop evidence-based therapeutic retreats for British combat veterans and their families. These will be funded by The Charles Wood Foundation (CWF), a non-profit organisation founded in memory of Amanda’s uncle Sgt Charles Wood, a member of the 76 squadron who was killed in action in October 1941.

In addition, Amanda aims to collaborate with universities offering undergraduate programmes in health professions such as nursing, social work, psychology and medicine, to raise awareness and provide education about the military culture, barriers to seeking psychological support, and the unique problems faced by military families.

Notes to editors

Contact: [email protected]

The Mental Health Foundation

The Mental Health Foundation believes that with the right support and guidance millions of people can avoid developing mental health problems - with enormous benefits to them, their families, friends, communities and the nation as a whole. The Mental Health Foundation is supporting Fellows with advice, and ensuring the lessons learnt are shared with policy makers and other relevant groups and individuals.