Tag Archives: military family

Feeling Free Through Prolonged Exposure

Easter Seals Greater Houston has a branch of programs serving Veterans, Service Members and Military-Connected Families. Our mission is to assist military-connected families in building the lives they want during and after the military to meet their needs around reintegration, stability, wellness, and growth. Our goal is to provide an easy point of entry for Service Members, Veterans, and Military-Connected families to a range of behavioral health services.

Our team of clinicians serving Service Members, Veterans and Military-Connected Families uses many evidenced-based treatment modalities.  Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy teaches individuals to approach their trauma-related memories, feelings, and situations.  The outcome is learning the trauma-related memories are not dangerous and do not need to be avoided.  In other words, learning to confront the trauma instead of avoiding the trauma. 

Prolonged Exposure is difficult because the immediate response to those difficult memories and feelings is to avoid.  It is our natural default to protect ourselves from the danger.  However, the trauma is never processed, and those symptoms continue to keep the avoidance of places, people, situations, feelings, etc.  It keeps a hold on our lives.  In PE, we confront and explore the trauma in detail.

One success story of PE is of a client being able to take his son to Galveston.  He had always wanted to, but a previous trauma caused a fear of driving, and that prevented the trip from ever happening.  After doing PE with our clinician, the client made the trip and enjoyed every minute of it. 

Another success story of PE is a client being able to relate to a friend who was experiencing hardship due to abuse.  He was able to tell his story and the changes in his life he made.  His friend was grateful and decided to seek his own counseling.  Speaking about his trauma was a fear he had, and he had never spoken about the trauma prior to PE.

Lastly, after doing PE, a client described herself as feeling “free” for the first time in ten years.  Through PE, she started to recognize that she had to address the trauma and her discomfort with it in order to move forward with her life.  She said, “For the first time, I can see my life without my trauma being the highlight of it.”

Special thanks to STRONG STAR (South Texas Research Organizational Network Guiding Studies on Trauma and Resilience) for providing Easter Seals Greater Houston’s clinicians with Prolonged Exposure training.

Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Veterans, Service Members and Military-Connected Family Programs.

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Running Past the Limits

My name is Jennifer Wright, PsyD and I am so happy to be part of the Easter Seals Greater Houston team. I started as a Harvey Case Manager over three years ago and will surely retire at ESGH! I now have the honor of working with clients through the Service Members, Veterans and Military-Connected Families Programs.

It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with West Nile Virus Encephalitis at age 40 that I wanted to run. The neurologist told me he wasn’t sure if I would ever roller blade or run again. I didn’t have my impulse control back yet…I told him, “Forget it! You don’t know who you are talking to. I am going to roller blade and run some day! Ridiculous!” I stormed out of the doctor’s office, wanting to proving him wrong. In that second, I made the decision to dedicate my daily life to helping people find hope.

Being sick kept me from being able to sit up and caused me to fall over in the shower. Though I had never been a runner before, these new obstacles made me want to run more than ever. I also began working at Easter Seals Greater Houston, loving that the organization brought individuals hope from every interaction. The agency exemplifies this in every interaction with clients, from our initial conversation at intake to follow through several months later.

I was inspired to run the Woodlands Marathon because there are families who no longer have loved ones that can run (death, injury, suicide etc…) or there are families whose kids need 24 hour care. At mile 18 and 22, I was so nauseous from the pain. I felt the tears down on my face- I kept telling myself…”your veterans and families with disabilities push through difficult moments every single day. They embrace this because their struggle never goes away. You breathe through it, in the same way they do. They can do it…you can do it- just like them!” I made it to the finish line thanks to the families who share their stories with me at Easter Seals Greater Houston.

Watch the incredible Jennifer Wright finish her race here! Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s programs that serve veterans, service members, children and adults with disabilities and their families.

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Celebrating Our Military Families and Their Successes

As Military Family Month, November, is coming to a close we continue to celebrate our families and their successes daily.   Having started our Veterans Services soon after we affiliated with Easter Seals in 2011 we began to understand the need and realized that our current programming would be off a huge asset and would translate easily. We initially started with service dogs and to date we have paired 25+ service dogs with veterans. Since then we have become the lead in VSO collaborative called Texas Veterans + Family Alliance serving thousands, we are especially proud of our counseling and mental health services open to not only Veterans and service members but also to family members. These are just a few of our most recent successes and we are truly honored to be in this space serving our military after they have served us. 

“F” is a female Veteran who has been in recovery for five years.  She has been attending AA meetings and has a sponsor she trusts and can turn to.  She has embraced the arts, especially dancing, as an escape.  Her fear is having a craving, because the people around her often talk about doing drugs and drinking.  She talked to her Easter Seals Greater Houston therapist about feeling exposed and vulnerable, so together they worked out plans for setting boundaries, and being mindful of her own feelings and of warning signs.  They also created a Crisis Response Plan, so that she has a plan of action for when a substance use crisis arises.

“H” is a Veteran who has worked all his life as a laborer, and that physical labor has caused degenerative spine disease.  Over the years as the pain worsened, he became addicted to meth.  H and his Easter Seals therapist are working together to navigate what he needs to do apply for disability and to stay clean.  Just recently, H discovered how much being in nature and working with nature helps him.  He has taken up rock collecting and rock polishing, and his meth use has decreased.

This story is about small steps.  Veteran “I” has misused alcohol for decades.  A week ago, he stopped for two days.  What caused the change?  He took a trip to see an old Marine friend, and saw in him a different way of living.  I told his Easter Seals therapist, “I work all day, drink all night, and then do it again the next day.  I realize now I don’t have to live this way.”

“D” is a female Veteran who has always drank and smoked.  Recently she got “the job”- the one she never felt like she’d ever get- and that one life change has increased her self-esteem tenfold.  D and her Easter Seals therapist have talked about how the job has made her feel so fulfilled, that she has realized she doesn’t need to drink and smoke anymore.

“L” is a Veteran and a single dad.  He has drank and smoked as long as he can remember, but after attending a retreat focused on mental health, he became motivated to find more purpose.  He and his Easter Seals therapist have been working to find ways for him to reconnect with his daughter.

“R” is a Veteran who has been in recovery for 23 years, and he faithfully meets with his Easter Seals therapist every two weeks.  R is knowledgeable about mental health, and he understands sobriety- most especially how fragile sobriety can be.  R has family with substance use issues, and they are living with his mother and not providing her with appropriate care.  R and his Easter Seals therapist have talked about how the stress weighs on him, and how he does not have to turn to substance.  R has taken up painting the interior of his house.  A task with a beginning and an end that he can control, and that he can see the result.

“M” is Veteran who drinks a lot.  As he said to his Easter Seals therapist, “If I’m not working, I’m drinking.”  M is participating in PE or Prolonged Exposure, a specific type of cognitive behavioral therapy that teaches individuals to gradually approach trauma-related memories, feelings and situations.  PE has helped M deal with his PTSD, and he recently reported to his therapist that he is drinking only on weekends, and no longer throughout the evening after work each weekday.     

Congratulations to you all! Learn more and get involved!   

Services to Veterans, Military and their family members FY 2020 to date:

357 Adult Veterans or family members are receiving mental health supports.

38 Adult Veterans or family members received I&R supports.

93 Children of Veterans are receiving mental health supports.

7 Children of Veterans received I&R supports.

201 Adult Veterans or family members are receiving individual counseling.

166 Adult Veterans or family members reported substance use concerns.

40 Children of Veterans are receiving individual counseling.

5 Children of Veterans reported substance use concerns.

Easter Seals Greater Houston is proudly serving current Service members, Veterans and their families in Harris and all surrounding counties.Our reach can extend to those throughout the state who are interested in tele-mental health services. Our mission is to assist military-connected families in building the lives they want during and after the military to meet their needs around reintegration, stability, wellness, and growth. Our goal is not to duplicate services offered in the community, but rather be an easy point of entry for finding and connecting with needed resources. Learn more here and contact us at 346.330.3859 or Veterans@eastersealshouston.org to get plugged into Service Members, Veterans and Military-Connected Family Services.

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Coping Strategy to Passion

Lou is a Veteran who has been working on reducing chronic stress in his life with Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Service Member, Veteran and Military-Connected Families Program.  After making lots of progress in therapy, COVID-19 presented new challenges and removed some of his coping strategies.  He was no longer able to attend therapeutic horsemanship at Reigning Strength, or volunteer to keep himself meaningfully occupied.  Visits with neighbors and friends were suspended during the stay-at-home orders. 

During a telehealth session with his psychologist, Amy Harkins, Ph.D. from Easter Seals Greater Houston, Lou decided on a plan to stop worry by snapping a few photos with his old camera.  After one week, he reported that photography was as good for his state of mind as breathing exercises, but not as good as spending time with his favorite horse, Iceman.  With photography, he learned he can shut out other thoughts and he said “it calms me down.”  He found himself surprised that he could be so interested looking at a bug on a rose, something that he normally would not have noticed.  Photography reminds him that there are other things happening in the world besides his own concerns and some of those things are “pretty darn good.”  Lou is thinking about using photography as a bridge back to older hobbies of painting and drawing.  When asked what he sees when he looks out the window, he explained “I used to only see clouds.  Now I am seeing the sun poking through those clouds.”

Easter Seals Greater Houston proudly serves Veterans, Service Members and Military-Connected Families with a wide variety of programs and resources. Learn more.

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Supporting Our Troops Here at Home

My name is Bryan Cream and I am a 100% Disabled Veteran of the U.S Army. I wanted to write and thank Easter Seals Greater Houston and all of their donors that help people like me. I know it’s cliché, but just saying thank you is not even close to being adequate. 

During the last 6 months my family has experienced several high stress situations: My father had a heart attack that they described as a “widow maker”; my mother hasn’t been able to walk for 6 months and through several doctors and tests it was discovered she had a mass on her spine and brain; my brother was diagnosed with Coronavirus and was in the hospital for over a week; my wife (who was told she was not going to be able to have children) found out she was pregnant (currently 17 weeks) and that is a huge blessing but also comes with many stresses; and my wife has lost many hours of work as well as being out of work for two weeks waiting for COVID-19 results.

I say all of this because I want to point out what Easter Seals Greater Houston and donors like you have helped me through. The financial assistance has allowed us to pay our mortgage and feel secure, even with everything happening around us. For a long time I have only seen the present and my circumstances for what they are. I still am reminded of the stress every day, but Easter Seals and donors like you have given me and my family a glimpse to a bright future. 

On top of everything else, I have been lucky enough to be able to receive training to train my dog Lucie to be a Service Dog. The training and support from Jennifer Wright has been nothing less than a blessing to my family and me. I have never seen anyone or any organization go to the lengths of helping someone the way Easter Seals and Dr. Wright have. I hope everyone that donates to Easter Seals realizes the impact they are having on individuals’ lives. It’s still an ongoing battle, but with all the support I know I will be able to get through it and one day be able to give back the way you do.

Thank you!

Bryan Cream

Easter Seals Greater Houston is proud to provide Service Members, Veterans and Military-Veterans with a wide variety of services including mental health, service dogs, financial coaching and more. Click here to support these crucial services.

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My Independence Day

Dear Easter Seals Greater Houston,

I want to express my feelings about training my service dog puppy, Just Bob, during these extreme conditions, and with my limited physical abilities. Without the Easter Seals Veterans Service Program and partner, My Service Dog, being available to provide safe environments, leadership, and guidance, I would have given up by now.

My life has changed in more ways than I could have imagined having this highly intelligent puppy in it. He is also a member of my family and they feel the same about him. We all work together to teach him, love him, and correct him. In just over a couple of months, Just Bob has enhanced my life, and the lives of my entire family. I honestly cannot believe how much he means to me and how I could not do without him.

In the beginning I was wondering how I could train Just Bob from a puppy, build a strong foundation and teach a full-blown service dog. It was only possible thanks to Easter Seals Greater Houston and My Service Dog’s constant communication, assistance, and guidance.My Independence Day

A perfect example of your team’s dedication and commitment is the photo attached to this email. There was ‘no way’ I was going to get into my wheelchair and let someone push me around a nature path where other people could see.  I am glad that she finally convinced me because it was a great training session, the weather was beautiful, and Just Bob learned how to maneuver with my wheelchair like never before. The outing did me good, taught both of us so much, and wore Just Bob out!

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart,

Blaine C.

Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Veteran Service Dog Program.

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First Light and The Wish Float

What an incredible 4th First Light Family Camp we had! And the lessons, encouragement, and realizations keep coming.  The families are there because they are first and foremost a military family. We are proud that we can be of support to them through Easter Seals  Veterans Services, but more importantly, we are honored by the work they have done for our Country and the work they are doing for their families now.  We were also really excited to have donors who wanted to ensure that all the children attending received a new bike. Who knew it would lead to some incredible revelations. Untitled

“First light is hopeful, beautiful, but it is also when you are at your most vulnerable.”

One family of four who attended with two children both of whom have disabilities, learned a new lesson.  “Wow a bike!  You think I can learn how to ride it?”   Apparently, the children were never taught to ride… plenty of reasons, mostly protecting them – but the truth is it was just one more thing that made the children feel different adding to the list of disability, divorce, and military.   One of the children after taking the first turn on learning to ride said, “This is going to make me feel really good.”

Another mom of a family attending reflected on her childhood memories of what a bike meant to her as a child, bottom line – freedom.  “I think about my kids and the childhood they’re having now.  They are not having the “normal” childhood I had.  Maybe these bikes are going to help us ALL feel free again.”

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“The Wish Float, when something spiritual becomes real.”

 

 

The Wish Float, a tradition at First Light it, is an emotional event, after a day of mental health focused break-out sessions, nighttime with the family and new friends, stars out, our flag lit up and campfire going. Everyone is asked to send out their wishes and hopes in a note with a candle into the darkness.

One family, enjoying the night realized one young adult child was off to the side on their own.  Everyone assumed normal teen stuff.   Turns out, a younger child with a disability from another family, being emotional, had reached out to the closest person for comfort, their young adult. And it turns out, that is all it took, the touch of a child for this family member to realize that they always needed to be there for their family, not just for the weekend, but for life. First Light

Upon seeing the picture – Mom said, “I remember loving this moment! I felt like things were going to be truly o.k. with my kids.”

And that is what this Easter Seals Veteran Family Camp is all about.  Being okay with yourself, and being present for your family.

Christine Ellery, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Program Director; Kenzie Richard Easter Seals Greater Houston, Program Coordinator

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