Military Counseling Competency Training

Mark at Lake

There is a paradigm shift today in the counseling and psychology profession. How do we translate the theories, clinical strategies, and treatments for military service members, veterans, and their family members? The Clinical Military Counselor Certificate (CMCC) program will help you translate your clinical practice into the cultural lens of the military. My October article addresses the complex issues challenging both clinicians and military personnel.

In the pre-dawn hours of April 18, 1906 one of the largest natural disasters in the U.S. took place killing over three thousand persons. This was not the result of war. Rather, it was the San Francisco earthquake estimated to be about a 7.8 magnitude estimated by today’s Richter scale rating. As a result of this earthquake, commercial buildings toppled, houses collapsed and shifted from their foundations, water mains and gas lines were twisted and ruptured. This earthquake in California was felt along the quake-line from about 300 miles north to south. Within a five mile radius of the epicenter, more than 28,000 structures were totally decimated by explosions, blasts, and fires. In the aftermath about 80% of San Francisco was destroyed. Over half of the city’s population (approximately 400,000) souls perished. Persons were left homeless and thousands were listed as missing.

As we prepare for the next natural and un-natural disaster how easily we have forgotten the cataclysmic event that took place on December 26, 2004 where a Tsunami and earthquake, registering 9.0 off the west coast of Northern Sumatra, injured and claimed the lives of millions of people. To date, thousands have not been found in 14 countries that were affected such as Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. Where did all the disaster mental health counselors, international volunteers, angels, and earthly saints go that descended upon these countries? Did they have to retreat back home for the sake of their own emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being? Who has taken their place? The desolation left in the aftermath of these particular critical events creates a sort of historical trauma among world cultures.

The Zombie Apocalypse on U.S. Soil
Even a Zombie apocalypse does not compare to catastrophic natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and wildfires. The significant loss, grief, emotional and psychological trauma associated with such critical events are much like war. How easily some of us have forgotten the horrific terrorist attacks of Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001 that left emotional, physical, spiritual, and environmental scars upon our minds, bodies, spirits, of American culture.
As American’s prepare for the next attack on U.S. soil we cannot take our eyes off such critical events as fires, floods, hurricanes, tornados, drought, earthquakes, school shootings, bombings at sporting events, biological epidemic and pandemics viral attacks, and socio-political-civil unrest. There are other-worldly alien entities in the universe that could harm us also. All critical incidents require our complete and full attention. It necessitates a high level of empathy and compassion towards survivors of such traumatic events. As mental health professionals, we are constantly in a state of natural and un-natural disaster preparedness. A Zombie Apocalypse could potentially be just around the corner hiding in the shadows.

Empathy Fatigue
As a consequence, we have the potential to be emotionally, socially, physically, spiritually, and vocationally exhausted. I would propose that many of us are experiencing empathy fatigue; a construct I coined and delineated in the research beginning in 1998. Empathy fatigues results from the mental, emotional, psychological, medical, physical, and spiritual exhaustion as a direct consequence of providing services at the most intense levels of human suffering. The ensuing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East, South American, North Africa, and the fight against multiple terror groups, many that have not surfaced yet, are all constant reminders of how fragile our physical safety, mental health, and overall well-being can be. For many, planet earth does not appear to be a safe place to live because of the multitude of natural, un-natural, and person-made disasters.

A World at War
The foundation of wars that are fought have only three rules: 1. Bring a weapon; 2. Bring all your friends and family members with weapons; and 3. There are no winners and losers- humans must hunt, kill, or be killed themselves. As many warfighters will tell you “there is a cost to killing another human being”. Failure to respond to a world at war is not an option. However, the consequence of warfighting harms our mind, body, spirit, and quality-of-life in the United States.
Globally, wars have accelerated within the last 17 years since 9/11. Statistically, the majority of deaths that occur during times of war do not involve military personnel. Rather, 90% comprise civilian casualties. Since World War II there have been 127 different wars fought globally with over 40 million civilian deaths. World War II alone was responsible for over 27.3 million civilian casualties. There have been over 5.4 million civilian deaths in the Democratic Republic of Congo; 2 million civilian deaths related to the Khmer Rouge killing fields; 2 million civilian deaths in Rwanda; and 200,000 civilian deaths from the Bosnian civil war in the Balkins. Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation New Dawn, have resulted in over 210,000 civilian casualties.

Thank You for Your Service: The CMCC Program
My professional life was inspired by my own experiences in disaster mental health and trauma counseling with both civilian and military populations. I have been both a counselor educator, researcher, and practitioner that has been trained in various trauma therapies, disaster mental health, critical incident, and group crisis response models. I have facilitated these approaches with persons and organizations who have been at the epicenter of war, natural, and person-made disasters. There are very few models which understand the military culture. Thus, this inspired the Clinical Military Counselor Certificate (CMCC) training program which I developed to help address the unique needs of military service members and their families.
So how do we come out of the darkness and into the light bringing new meaning and understanding of specific clinical approaches that translate well into providing services to the military culture? How can we take our current clinical training and translate this into the cultural lens of the veterans’ experiences of combat deployments? What are some unique cultural differences within the military define the men and women that have serve in support of combat operations? How can we facilitate good emotional, social, physical, psychological, spiritual, and occupational well-being of active duty service members, veterans, veterans with disabilities, and family members? These are just some questions that will be answered in the CMCC training program.
Thus, it is my intention that mental health and other behaviorally-trained professionals acquire the knowledge, awareness, and skills to work optimally with active duty service members, veterans, veterans with disabilities, and family member. The CMCC training approach provides a unique resource guide with practical application for counselor educators, graduate students, mental health and other behaviorally-related practitioners that will prepare them to meet the intense challenges of military mental health for the 21st century. The CMCC program particularly honors the collective wisdom of military cultural practices, mission objectives, and philosophical orientations from a variety of resources. Participants will gain the knowledge and skills in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of military personnel and their family members.


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    Mark at Lake

    There is a paradigm shift today in the counseling and psychology profession. How do we translate the theories, clinical strategies, and treatments for military service members, veterans, and their family members? The Clinical Military Counselor Certificate (CMCC) program will help you translate your clinical practice into the cultural lens of the military. My October article addresses the complex issues challenging both clinicians and military personnel.

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I appreciate having the opportunity to access this valuable training. I found it to be comprehensive, detailed, and courageous, especially in presenting the critical importance of addressing the existential factor (Soul Wound, Moral Injury) in the healing process.
Virginia Renfroe
Licensed Professional Counselor / Virginia C. Renfroe, MA, LPC

Wonderful course! Highly Recommend!

As the child of a Vietnam Army veteran, I am familiar with military life on a personal level. And now, as an art therapist and professional counselor, I have the honor of clinically servicing this population through art therapy, therapeutic arts and other holistic approaches to reintegrate the mind, body and spirit that becomes fragmented due to military life challenges. The CMCC program has truly strengthened my clinical skills through its expansive, in-depth view of various aspects unique to military veterans and families so I can better facilitate post-traumatic growth, resiliency and overall healthier military family functioning.
Yonsenia White, MS, ATR, LPC, CMCC
Art Therapist & Program Facilitator of WMAI Art Therapy & Veterans Open Studio Programs / Workhouse Military in the Arts Initiative (WMAI)

This was a very eye opening training , there's no doubt in my mind that the information provided here will help me become a better advocate for veterans as well as deliver better services.

Victor Gonzalez
Volunteer Coordinator / Amara Hospiice

I fully enjoyed learning the contents of this course and feel it will be extremely useful when working with veterans of our armed forces.

Marek R Moldawsky
Licensed S. Psychologist / Southwest Psychological Services, llc
Having completed the Clinical Military Counselor Certificate program, I am honored and proud to endorse this training for those interested in providing counseling services to veterans, active duty personnel, and their loved ones. The CMCC program comprehensively covers veterans and disability (i.e., psychiatric disorders and physical disability), effective counseling strategies, elements of skillful interviewing during the intake process, and cultural aspects of the military. Although the CMCC program focuses on the unique challenges faced by the three aforementioned groups, your skillset as a current and/or future practitioner will be significantly enhanced after successful completion of the training. Having reviewed other military counseling certificate programs, this is by far one of the best available!
Noel Ysasi
President – American Rehabilitation Counseling Association, United States Navy Veteran / Northern Illinois University
The CMCC course offers helpful information to better prepare counselors and clinicians to work with military personnel and veterans regardless of work setting. The information provided is relevant and considers the holistic needs of military personnel. I highly recommend this course to anyone wanting to know more about this group of individuals and professionals who wish to enhance their knowledge and understanding.
Dr. Susan Stuntzner PhD, LPC, LMHP, CRC, NCC, BC-TMH
Director of Disabiity Services / Adjunct Faculty / Southwestern Oregon Community College / University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

I first learned of the Clinical Military Counselor Certificate (CMCC) program during my first semester enrolled as a graduate student in the rehabilitation counseling program at Northern Illinois University. As a result of the training, I was able to gain further insight into the United States military culture, the impact trauma can have the service member, veteran, and family, and the methods for working with clients who face an array of challenges such as transitioning into civilian life post-military discharge. In addition, Dr. Stebnicki provides an array of resources that will undoubtedly prove useful post-graduation, but has aided me during my current graduate studies. My professors have oftentimes provided high praise in my ability to offer a deeper level of understanding on the issues discussed in class (i.e., psychosocial aspects of disability and counseling skills) and thankfully, continues to carry over in my other courses. Lastly, I was recently interviewed for practicum and internship by a highly competitive agency which has a high volume of veteran clientele, and was I accepted as a result of my CMCC certificate! Thank you Dr. Stebnicki for providing this outstanding and practical course!

Alison Murphy
Rehabilitation Counseling Graduate Student / Northern Illinois University

Excellent course. Great content and resources. Very well organized. Thank you for developing such an outstanding resource to better serve the military population.

Jenny Wagstaff
Assistant Professor / Campbell University

As a professional counselor and leader in several professional associations, the CCMC program has been a tremendous asset to my personal knowledge and skills. Dr. Stebnicki is a visionary in how to translate the unique military culture into sound, evidence-based principles that can be easily applied by counselors and other mental health providers. His passion, commitment to ethical and evidence-based practice, and engaging style makes the CCMC training and credential a must have for all mental health providers.

Eric T. Beeson, Ph.D., LPC, NCC, ACS, CRC
President Elect of the American Mental Health Counseling Association / The Family Institute at Northwestern University, Core Faculty

Dr. Stebnicki has created an excellent certification program rich with the necessary information needed to provide effective and ethical services to military-affiliated populations. The information provided moves substantially beyond the more obvious basic military cultural norms to include the subtle aspects of military culture and experience that are so important when both providing services to military populations and when educating counselors-in-training about military clinical issues.

Thomas I. Watson, EdD, LPC, NCC, CPCS
Assistant Professor – Counseling President – Military & Government Counseling Association (MGCA) – 2017-2019 / Military & Government Counseling Association (MGCA)

My name is William Herbert Butler. I am a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in North Carolina. I have been counseling combat veterans and their families with the federal government since 2006. I have had the privilege to co-facilitate multiple presentations of the CMCC course with Mark Stebnicki over the past 3 years to counseling professionals. I am a retired United States Marine of 30 years and a 10-month tour of duty in Iraq in 2005. I believe this course is a valuable source of insight for professionals not familiar with the military community.

William Herbert Butler, LPC
Retired Marine GySgt / Vet Center Greenville, NC