June 9, 2014
CDR Richard Schobitz
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a prevalent issue for men and women returning from serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. To increase the availability of necessary treatment to the wounded warriors in need of behavioral health services, the Department of Defense and the U.S. Public Health Service established the "DoD-USPHS Partnership for Psychological Health" in 2008, which details Commissioned Corps officers to military treatment facilities across the nation. One such officer is CDR Richard Schobitz, who not only treats men and women returning from combat with behavioral health issues, but has founded an internationally-recognized training program to increase access to evidence-based treatment for service members with PTSD.
CDR Schobitz currently serves at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) at Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA) - Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, where his two-year PTSD treatment training program is available to clinical psychology interns and residents, social work interns, and psychology fellows that are from the Army, Air Force, and civilians. The training focuses on empirically supported treatments including prolonged exposure therapy, cognitive processing therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia.
In the four years since its inception, the training program has grown from six trainees and one supervisor to twelve trainees and four faculty members, allowing BAMC to have 60 additional appointments available a week for men and women suffering from PTSD. In addition, the program has been recognized for its success by the Center for Deployment Psychology, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and the American Psychological Association.
“As mental health providers in the Department of Defense, we treat the service members and their families who have served our country,” CDR Schobitz says. “The training program has improved our skills to become more effective as we carry out this important work.”
LT Sara Villarreal
LT Sara Villarreal is one of two Commissioned Corps psychology residents to graduate from the Psychology Residency Program at BAMC and complete the PTSD training program. She currently serves as the only Corps officer at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, Alaska. “The patients that we see tend to have a high acuity of clinical issues, from depression and anxiety to comorbid disorders of PTSD,” says LT Villarreal. “The training I got at that program has been invaluable.”
The unique training program allows hands-on case work in addition to didactic classroom training. LT Villarreal describes videotaping each of her therapy sessions and reviewing them with her supervisors. “We were able to pinpoint the theory that we’d been learning in sessions with real patients,” she says. “Through the course of the year, we went through several different cases with supervision on each and every session. It’s such a thorough training.”
CDR Schobitz teaches time-limited therapies, allowing behavioral health providers to give the best quality of care and reduce the amount of time that warriors spend in treatment. “Rather than seeing patients for months or years at a time with minimal progress, our role is to get them treated and return them back to duty at full capacity as soon as possible,” LT Villarreal says.
The goal of the PTSD Treatment Training Program is to graduate providers who will serve at military bases and increase access to excellent care. “We’re developing the next group of leaders in Army behavioral health,” CDR Schobitz says. “Our graduates are very quickly put into leadership roles at clinics nationwide so that we can provide the most effective treatments available to our service members.”