Monthly Archives: February 2012

Veteran avoids charges for homemade gun through court-mandated counseling sessions

Heather Rudow February 29, 2012

(Photo:Wikimedia Commons)

A federal court reached an agreement Monday in the case of Persian Gulf War veteran Sean Duvall, deciding Duvall could avoid prosecution after being charged with fabricating a homemade gun after calling a suicide hotline last year as long as he completes court-mandated counseling sessions.

As The Washington Post reports, last June, the Navy veteran called a Department of Veterans Affairs suicide crisis hotline while on the Virginia Tech campus and admitted to being armed with a gun. He was then charged with four counts related to the manufacturing of a weapon, which angered veterans groups who argued that the government should not prosecute people who are seeking help.

If Duvall successfully completes counseling, which will be overseen by a new Veterans Treatment Court, the charges — which could mean a prison sentence of up to 40 years — will be dropped.

After his sentencing, The Post reports, Duvall said he was “confused as to why they came after me,” as he believed the VA’s hotline was anonymous, just as it had been advertised.

Duvall also expressed worry for “the veterans that are coming back [from Iraq and Afghanistan]. I know it’s going to be rough for them.”

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Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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Tips to help students and children cope with Ohio school shooting

Heather Rudow

(Photo:Wikimedia Commons)

In light of Monday’s school shooting in Ohio, which has now claimed the lives of three students, Mental Health America is offering tips to help students and children cope with and discuss the tragic events.

“We do know that events like this will impact students and families in Chardon and the nation,” said David Shern, president and CEO of Mental Health America in a press release. “Many students may feel at risk and may experience feelings of anxiety and fear. Parents may be groping with how to discuss these and similar events with their children.”

Mental Health America suggests the following tips:

  • Talk honestly about the incident, without graphic detail, and share some of your own feelings about it. It is important that students feel informed.
  • Encourage students to talk about their concerns and to express their feelings, and validate the young person’s feelings and concerns.
  • Limit television viewing. It can be difficult to process the images and messages in news reports.
  • Empower young people to take action about their own school safety. Encourage them to share their concerns about school safety with school officials.
  • Recognize what may be behind a young person’s behavior. They may minimize their concerns outwardly but may become argumentative, withdrawn or allow their school performance to decline.
  • Keep the dialogue going even after media coverage subsides. Continue to talk about feelings and discuss actions being taken to make schools and communities safer.
  • Seek help when necessary. If you are worried about a young person’s reaction or have ongoing concerns about his/her behavior or emotions, contact a mental health professional at their school or at your community mental health center. Your local Mental Health America Affiliate can direct you to resources in your community.

Source: Mental Health America

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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Stress affects the way we make decisions

Heather Rudow


When making an important decision, University of Southern California researchers are recommending that you keep your stress levels down, as their new study reveals that when under stress, people tend to look more at the positive outcomes of a situation.

“This is sort of not what people would think right off the bat,” explains co-author Mara Mather. “Stress is usually associated with negative experiences, so you’d think, ‘Maybe I’m going to be more focused on the negative outcomes?’”

The researchers found that when people are put under stress, whether it’s putting a hand in cold water or giving a speech, they start weighing risk and reward differently, and they actually pay more attention to positive information and discount negative information.

“Stress seems to help people learn from positive feedback and impairs their learning from negative feedback,” Mather said.

The increased focus on the positive as well helps explain the role stress plays for those trying to overcome their addictions.

“The compulsion to get that reward comes stronger, and they’re less able to resist it,” Mather said.

Stress can also affect whether people decide to take a job with a worse commute because they are so focused on the higher salary.

The effects of stress also differ between genders: men under stress become more willing to take risks, whereas women become more conservative.

Mather said this can be linked to previous research that found that men are more inclined to turn to their fight-or-flight responses during times of stress, while women tend to look to bonding and improving their relationships.

“We make all sorts of decisions under stress,” Mather said. “If your kid has an accident and ends up in the hospital, that’s a very stressful situation and decisions need to be made quickly. It seems likely that how much stress you’re experiencing will affect the way you’re making the decision.”

A nationwide report on stress found that it is also linked with chronic diseases.

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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A counselor’s diagnosis brings the Army’s “personality disorder” discharges to the forefront

Heather Rudow February 28, 2012

(Photo:Flickr/The U.S. Army)

The soon-to-be discharge of a counselor from the U.S. Army with the diagnosis of a personality disorder is dredging up a longstanding conflict between some service members and the military, as well as the question of whether these people are receiving the correct diagnosis.

As The New York Times reports, since 2001, the military has discharged approximately 31,000 service members because of what Army psychiatrists have diagnosed as a personality disorder, “a family of disorders broadly characterized by inflexible ‘maladaptive’ behavior that can impair performance and relationships.” One of these service members is Capt. Susan Carlson. The 50-year-old volunteered for the Army in 2006 as a social worker, but after a soldier complained about “sexually suggestive remarks” last year, she was suspended from her work. When an Army psychiatrist diagnosed her with a personality disorder she was shocked and is now disputing the claim.

Carlson is not alone. As The Times notes, veterans and their advocates have been contending for years that the Pentagon uses the diagnosis of a personality disorder as a way to easily discharge troops it considers troublesome or wants to avoid giving benefits to for injuries connected to their time of service.

“The military considers personality disorder a pre-existing problem that emerges in youth, and as a result, troops given the diagnosis are often administratively discharged without military retirement pay. Some have even been required to repay enlistment bonuses. By comparison, a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder is usually linked to military service and leads to a medical discharge accompanied by certain benefits.”

And, when scouring her medical profile, Carlson found a document signed by her psychiatrist saying, “Her command specifically asks for a diagnosis of a personality disorder.”

“It’s a bad label,” she said to The Times. “I’m a broken soldier. I’m old. And they just want to get rid of me.”

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A study published in October revealed that in the coming years, the amount of money the Department of Veterans Affairs will spend on mental health care for veterans is likely to increase dramatically.

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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New resources available for drug abuse and eating disorder treatment

Heather Rudow

(Photo:Wikimedia Commons)

Two new resources are now available for counselors as a way to help make finding treatment a little easier for clients suffering from drug abuse or eating disorders.

As a way to raise awareness for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, which runs Feb. 26 through March 3, the Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness (AEDA) has distributed copies of its U.S Eating Disorders Treatment Referral Guide to the directors of counseling centers at every college and university in the country.

The organization is providing the guide free of cost in an effort to reach the most amount of people; according to a press release, the scope of reach with this project is upwards of 18 million college students. The guide is also available to download online for free on AEDA’s website.

“We are so thrilled to be able to provide this important resource to colleges and universities across the country,” said Johanna Kandel, founder and CEO of AEDA in a press release. “We need to spread the message that help [and recovery are] available, and this guide is one more important step in the awareness process.”

According to Princeton University Health Systems, 30 percent of college students experience eating disorder symptoms during their time at school.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has also created a free guide to help counselors and patients find treatment, called Seeking Drug Abuse Treatment: Know What to Ask.

Each person’s journey through drug abuse treatment is unique, according to NIDA, and finding the perfect treatment can sometimes be a difficult process. NIDA’s free guide centers around five questions you should ask when searching for a treatment program:

1. Does the program use treatments backed by scientific evidence?

2. Does the program tailor treatment to the needs of each patient?

3. Does the program adapt treatment as the patient’s needs change?

4. Is the duration of treatment sufficient?

5. How do 12-step or similar recovery programs fit into drug addiction treatment?

The guide is available on NIDA’s website, along with additional resources.

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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