The Veteran’s Transition Program (VTP) at UBC is a group-based therapeutic program developed by the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, and Special Education. Founded by Dr. Marvin Westwood and Dr. David Kuhl, the VTP helps former members of the Canadian military make the sometimes difficult transition back to civilian life.
Soldiers often bear witness to atrocities most people can’t begin to imagine. When they return home, plenty of programs are available to heal their bodies, but it’s often their minds and hearts that require the most attention.
It’s estimated up to 30% of soldiers are traumatized by active combat. Symptoms range from nightmares and insomnia to concentration difficulties and substance abuse. Without help, these veterans are almost twice as likely to commit suicide as their civilian counterparts.
The Veteran’s Transition Program at UBC is a resource for ex-soldiers trying to come to terms with the impact of their military experience. By working with doctors, psychologists, and each other, these men and women gain the information and skills necessary to reclaim their lives.
The Royal Canadian Legion BC/Yukon Command has been a key supporter of the VTP. Their generosity has led to the establishment of The Royal Canadian Legion Professorship in Group Counselling and Trauma, a position that will oversee the long-term goals of trauma repair through group counselling.
“The Legion understands that our new veterans need care and attention,” said David Sinclair, past President of the BC/Yukon Command of The Royal Canadian Legion. “Through partnerships with the University of British Columbia and other like-minded agencies, the Legion will be there and ready for our returning men and women in uniform.”
About 200 veterans have already participated in UBC’s Veteran’s Transition Program. Research and follow-ups have shown that participants suffered fewer traumatic symptoms and experienced greater self-confidence. Additionally, many had settled into new careers and reported improvement in personal relationships.
“It’s not simply a healing program,” says Tim Laidler, 26, who participated in the program before returning to the VTP as a paraprofessional to assist other soldiers with their recovery. “It’s about transitioning soldier skills into civilian skills, regaining what you may have lost overseas and building on your abilities.”
The Faculty of Education remains committed to using their research expertise to promote the well-being of the community. There are plans to expand the VTP to first responders in the police, fire department, and other emergency services. Depending on demand and available funding, the one of a kind services offered through the VTP may soon be available across British Columbia and the rest of Canada.