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Publication Briefs

Study Evaluates Workshop to Assist OEF/OIF Veterans with Reintegration and Resiliency

Evidence suggests that soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan confront significant difficulties post-deployment that include depression, PTSD, substance abuse, and family distress, in addition to any physical health problems. However, few programs to promote healthy reintegration exist that are evidence-based and designed for individuals who are not receiving formal mental health care. In response to this need, a two-hour workshop, Life Guard, was developed for the Arkansas National Guard. The workshop is based upon Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which emphasizes skill development to promote resiliency and successful post-deployment reintegration. The workshop also was designed to provide skills a service member could use to help fellow service members about whom the participating Guard member was concerned. This approach allowed participants to learn skills without acknowledging any personal need for assistance, thereby avoiding potential stigma. This pilot study evaluated the effectiveness of the two-hour Life Guard workshop for OEF/OIF National Guard Veterans (63 intervention participants and 81 control participants). Investigators also described the deployment experiences for these 144 returning Veterans.

Findings show that in contrast to control participants, Veterans who participated in the Life Guard workshop reported significant declines in symptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD, in addition to increased satisfaction with relationships. Only effects for depression and relationship satisfaction remained significant in group comparisons (control vs. intervention). Results also show high levels of exposure to traumatic events, physical injury, and symptoms of psychosocial distress. For example, nearly 60% of Veterans who participated in the intervention and 44% of those in the control group reported being in serious danger of injury or being killed many times. Intervention and control participants had similar global ratings of their physical and mental health, e.g., the most frequent overall health rating was “good” (43% and 49%), but surprisingly few reported “excellent” health (5% and 6%).

The authors suggest that these findings support the continued evaluation of Life Guard as a valuable tool to help service members with reintegration and resiliency.

Blevins D, Roca J, and Spencer T. Life Guard: Evaluation of an ACT-based workshop to facilitate reintegration of OEF/OIF Veterans. Professional Psychology: Research & Practice February 2011;42(1):32-39.

This study was partly funded through VA’s South Central Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center (MIRECC). Dr. Blevins is part of HSR&D’s Center for Mental Health and Outcomes Research in Little Rock, AR.

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