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How is PST/EC-PST Helpful to Veterans and Service Members?

Think of this program as an educational and life skills program that teaches Active Duty Service members and Veterans a set of tools to better handle stressful problems associated with military life, transitioning back to civilian life, or life in general. Both groups may experience problems related to becoming a parent for the first time, have difficulties with family members, feel lonely, deal with a medical illness, or feel depressed. For Active Duty Service members, unique problems may include adjusting to a new duty station, being recently deployed or pending deployment, facing difficulties with the chain of command, or missing one’s family during long absences. For Veterans, such problems may involve finding a job, deciding on a new career, missing one’s service buddies, adjusting to retirement, trying to think more optimistically about the future, or dealing with feelings that are painful and that no one else seems to understand. Sometimes medical conditions like chronic pain, high blood pressure, or declining memory can be made worse by stress.


This website can help you deal more successfully with these challenges by learning (or re-learning) useful and practical “problem-solving skills.” These skills are helpful to overcome the challenges of low motivation, negative moods, and negative attitudes. This program can also help you to set reasonable goals, be creative in coming up with good solutions, make better decisions, and know what steps to take when things are not going well. People have found such skills to be very useful and effective across many areas of their lives. Bottom line— the more successful you are in overcoming obstacles to reaching your goals, the less stress you will experience— all this helps to improve your overall physical and mental well-being. In other words, as the name of the program we developed for the VA, DoD, and U.S. Air Force suggests, solving problems can help you "MOVE FORWARD!"


The Impact of Stress

STRESS is a part of everyone’s life. It is a normal and daily event. Sometimes stress is good, for example, when it helps motivate us to get out of bed in the morning, practice a skill, do a good job at work, or strive to achieve a personal goal. But when stress becomes too much, it can become harmful. Too much stress can lead to both medical (hypertension, diabetes, heart disease) and emotional (tension, sadness, anger) problems. It can make an already existing difficulty, such as relationship problems or a physical disability, even worse.


Any major change, either positive or negative, has the potential to be stressful. Even positive events, such as getting married, earning a promotion, retiring, or having a new child can be stressful. It’s not so much the event, but how we react to the situation that creates positive or negative consequences. For example, how we think and feel about the constant crying of a newborn (see it either as a huge burden or as a testimony to the “miracle of life”) will likely determine our emotional reactions. Similarly, we may work toward retirement with relief as we look forward to more free time to enjoy life. On the other hand, we might worry about having unlimited time with our partner. You successfully handled the stress of choosing to serve in the military, whether recently or years ago— now you are dealing with the stress of military life or your next chapter of “living” after military service. Reaching your goals in life requires that you handle such stress effectively and overcome problems that may be holding you back. 


What About My Military Training?

Your military training has provided you with many important skills. For example, it taught you to react automatically under stressful situations, which has enabled you to survive, and possibly even thrive or excel, in many situations. However, when we do something frequently, it often becomes a "habit." We call this "over-learning”— in other words, we engage in certain behaviors in a certain way because it's a habit, rather than because we had to think about it. Take driving, for example. We all drive without thinking "how do I stop the car, how do I make a left turn, how do I signal that I am making a right turn?" Instead, we just drive. Now imagine, however, that you wake up one day and all the cars have steering wheels on the right side and everyone drives on the left side. Of course your basic driving skills would help you to learn more quickly to adjust to this change. BUT . . . given all the years of driving that you have already done, overcoming some of those “overlearned” driving habits can interfere with how easy or difficult this adjustment can be. To drive well, it is likely that you would need to be more thoughtful and planful in this new environment. In other words, you need to do something different in order to "solve this new problem," that is, the problem of driving well and not causing an accident. In a similar way, our ability to “move forward” often requires us to be more thoughtful and planful in order to solve many of life’s problems. 


As a part of the military or as a Veteran, some of the “overlearned” ways of handling stressful situations which helped you to survive during your service or in a combat zone can now actually interfere with your daily functioning. For example, scanning the roads in Afghanistan helped many to survive by locating IEDs; however, constantly scanning the road as a civilian in the United States can have a significant impact on your driving, personal safety, and the welfare of others. Another example might be that in the past following orders was automatic, while now you have so many decisions to make for yourself. Being able to achieve your goals successfully may require a different way of thinking, feeling, and behaving; not necessarily better or worse, but different. Our goal is not to change your personality—rather, EC-PST can help you to learn how to cope better with stress in your life. So, we encourage you to review the information contained in the other pages of this website and see if they can be helpful to YOU!


Years ago, we developed a problem-solving based program for the Department of Veterans Affairs called "Moving Forward." It is a group program that is currently offered at many VA hospitals and medical centers across the country and has been found to be successful in reducing distress, depression, and interpersonal difficulties, as well as improve problem-solving skills, resilience, and overall well-being.

Click here to obtain a scientific paper that describes the program as well as its benefits.

​We also helped the VA and DoD develop a web-based version of Moving Forward, which has won several awards. Click the icon below to access the Moving Forward website.

Funded in part by the Infinite Hero Foundation, we developed a series of 6 videos, entitled New Pathways, that demonstrate the use of EC-PST for Veterans who are at risk for suicide. These videos are posted on YouTube. To access the playlist of all 6 videos, click on the picture below of Dr. Chris or go to the "Videos" page on this website (see menu).

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This page is dedicated to PFC Tetsuo Nezu, Dr. Art's dad. He served in the 442nd regiment during WWII and was awarded the Purple Heart due to a loss of an eye during combat. 

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Additional Resources for Veterans

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