Caring for Veterans’ Mental Health: Lessons for the Therapy Room

August 14, 2023

CFR Director of Operation Home & Healing, Dr. Nancy Isserman, serves on the Executive Committee of the Delaware Valley Veterans Consortium (DVVC). This Autumn she is stepping down from the Executive Team due to term limitations. Read on to learn more about the lessons on caring for Veterans’ mental health Dr. Isserman has taken from her time at the DVVC and how those lessons continue to inform her work on behalf of active duty military members, Veterans, and their families here at CFR today.

a person in a dress sitting on a chair

The DVVC was originally formed in 2013 as a program of the American Red Cross, which itself was founded by nurse Clara Barton (pictured here) in 1881.

Lessons from my time as a leader of the Delaware Valley Veterans Consortium

My role on the Delaware Valley Veterans Consortium (DVVC) is ending in the fall according to the bylaws of the organization as I have served three consecutive terms. This opportunity to serve was possible because of the encouragement and support I received from management at Council for Relationships (CFR).

And it has benefited CFR.

Through my networking at DVVC, I met people who introduced me to the team at Headstrong (now called The Headstrong Project). Serving as a provider of therapy services for Headstrong clients in southeastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey expanded CFR’s reach into the military and veteran population. New clients came to CFR through hearing about us in the course of my networking.

Since 2015 the number of veterans and family members CFR has counseled has doubled. Our grant program and financial support for our fee subsidy program have also grown. The number of staff, students, and outside therapists taking the course, Understanding Military Culture and Behavioral Health Treatment for Veterans and Families, has increased.

a person in a suit and tie

While British psychologist Charles S. Myers (pictured here) did not coin the phrase “shell-shock,” he was instrumental in getting British authorities to take the condition seriously in 1916.

Broadening mental health support for active duty military, Veterans, and their families

As I face my last remaining months at DVVC, I am taking the opportunity to reflect on the past seven years of serving on the Executive Committee. I joined the Executive Committee shortly after becoming director of CFRs’s Operation Home & Healing (OHH) in 2015. Prior to my tenure as Director, OHH had focused solely on providing clinical services to Veterans and their families, funded through a large family grant.

I saw my role as broader.

At that time, OHH was not well known in the Veteran space, even though OHH had been around for eight years, and CFR was founded 83 years earlier. Thus, I viewed increased engagement with this new Veterans’ group as a way to not only give back service to the Veteran population but to reach out to organizations in the Veteran space, explaining OHH services and what we could offer to them.

Just a year or two earlier the RAND Corporation had published a report that providers who worked for community mental health agencies like CFR were not well trained in military culture. CFR made a commitment at that time to train its clinicians in military culture. Thus, it became a required course for our students of CFR’s Post-graduate Certificate Program in Marriage and Family Therapy and a requirement for our therapists working with Veterans in our fee subsidy program. We also offered the course to therapists in the community who wanted training in military culture and behavioral health treatment.

a monument in a city

The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), one of the United States’ oldest Veterans support groups, held annual conventions, like this one in Cleveland, OH in 1901 (pictured here). GAR was racially segregated with Black Veterans often not welcomed at public GAR events.

Caring for the mental health of Veterans and their families

Beyond the opportunity to explain OHH services to others in the community, I was given the chance to meet and interact with many Veterans and professionals working with Veterans and their families. One goal of DVVC is networking. Between the meetings and the program organizing committee work, networking has become an important part of my work with DVVC. Through networking, I was able to establish a connection with The Headstrong Project five years ago, which allows CFR to provide therapy to any Headstrong active military or Veteran client from any era and their families in Pennsylvania and New Jersey at no cost for 30 sessions, and unlimited sessions beyond that for a small fee.

Most importantly, I’ve become colleagues and friends with a wonderful group of dedicated individuals working on behalf of the military/Veteran communities through DVVC. I have seen the consortium grow into a solid organization, providing programming for interested people across the nation. Our recent program on military sexual trauma had over 300 registered, and 100 participants!

The past seven years have been one of exciting growth for DVVC. The work matters; veterans and their families matter. Whatever I gave I got back in satisfaction, new avenues to pursue, and friendship. I am appreciative of the opportunity and encouragement that I received from CFR to participate in the leadership of DVVC.

Profile of Dr. Nancy Isserman with her left shoulder forward and looking directly at the camera against a green, natural background. She is wearing a blue turtleneck with a white necklace. She has short hair is a smiling. She is also wearing a blue hat.

Dr. Nancy Isserman, MSW, (pictured here), has dedicated her career to tackling the mental health needs of Veterans and their families.

About the Author

Nancy Isserman, MSW, PhD, is Director of Operation Home & Healing, and the Co-Director of the Transcending Trauma Project. She is also co-author of Transcending Trauma: Survival, Resilience and Clinical Implications in Survivor Families.

If you have questions about supporting the mental health of Veterans’ families, you may reach Dr. Isserman at or 215-395-3140 ext. 3133.

See our Therapist & Psychiatrist Directory to find a CFR therapist or psychiatrist near you.

About Operation Home & Healing

CFR’s Operation Home & Healing (OHH) provides counseling for active-duty service members, members of the National Guard and Reserves, veterans of all eras (regardless of their characterization of discharge or combat status), and their spouses.

Click here to learn more about OHH.

More from CFR

Supporting the Mental Health of Veterans’ Families

CFR and Headstrong announce partnership to serve veterans in Greater Philadelphia

Impact Spotlight: Operation Home and Healing

Testimony about Operation Home and Healing’s Services to Veterans and Families for the Veterans Advisory Council Commissioners Open Hearing