Hampton VA Medical Center
Vietnam Vet and Staff Member Gives Back
Each day staff members throughout our facility work to give back to the Veterans who have honorably served our country during times of peace and war. These Veterans often leave the military with mental health issues such as PTSD due to their experiences in combat or due to traumatic experiences they have experienced stateside.
Hampton VAMC’s PTSD Clinic currently has over 2,000 Veterans enrolled for care. According to Dr. Baljit Gill, MD, PCT clinic coordinator for Mental Health Service, PTSD is the number one diagnosis at the Hampton VAMC.
Providing therapy for PTSD Veterans is a challenging task as there are different levels of the disease which affects each patient differently. It takes special individuals who give specific hands on and compassionate care to assist with the recovery of those Veterans who are affected by PTSD. One such individual is Carlson Pendleton, a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) and member of the PTSD clinic.
A native of Boston and a Veteran of the Vietnam War, Pendleton knows all too well about the struggles Veterans with PTSD face every day. He is a therapist with a wide range of personal and professional skills which influence others on an individual, family and community level.
Pendleton is affectionately referred to by his colleagues as a one of those “rare gems” who goes above and beyond to help Veterans in need. He is one of the pillars of the Hampton PTSD Clinic having worked in the clinic since its inception in 1991. Together with Dr. Priscilla Hankins, acting chief of staff, and Dr. Marinell Miller, chief of psychology, he laid the groundwork for the large operation the PTSD Clinic has become today.
Pendleton spearheaded and has kept active many of the programs in the clinic to include the PTSD Holiday Group and the PTSD Art show.
The Holiday group was created to assist Veterans as the holidays are often a difficult time for people with PTSD. Veterans find support and camaraderie and learn what they can do to manage their PTSD during the Holiday season. Ideas such as understanding one’s triggers, developing coping strategies and creating a support network, which the group provides, are among many other tools Veterans learn over the course of four sessions.
The art show was created to celebrate Veterans talents and allow them to express, through art, the rehabilitation process from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to Post Traumatic Stress Personal Growth.
One of Pendleton’s genuine passions is to involve the families in therapy. He believes that families need to understand the condition and develop skills to assist the Veteran and themselves. He offers couples therapy every other month and has become a pioneer in expanding workshops to entire families.
Pendleton believes that working with PTSD Veterans is most effective when staff members put their hearts into it. “When it comes to Veterans with PTSD, patient care is not business as usual,” Pendleton explained. “The current team we have here works effectively because the staff understands this concept and brings the knowledge, skills and abilities combined with a sincere interest, from the heart, to help the Veterans.”
Pendleton further explained how Veterans with PTSD may be distrustful of others and sometimes test staff members to see how they react. If Veterans are treated with care and by those who react calmly to their tests, there is a very good chance to getting to the root of their problems and needs.
“Another concept is to allow Veterans to be your teachers. Many professionals are very confident in their skills but they forget that Veterans bring unique needs and perspectives on what their care should be,” Pendleton added. “If staff members allow themselves to be students of that Veteran they will ensure a good rapport and a positive experience during that encounter.”
Although June is PTSD Awareness Month, the staff of the Hampton VAMC PTSD clinic works daily to raise awareness of and provide the vital treatment for this disease. Mr. Pendleton exemplifies the values and mission of the Hampton VAMC and truly gives back to our Veterans through the work he does each day.
For more information about VA's PTSD program please visit www.ptsd.va.gov.