Coming Home Project
In 2006 I’m not sure “stigma” had even been identified as the pervasive obstacle it is to care and support. Our VA and DoD clinics and hospitals were completely unprepared for the influx of returning troops and veterans, and they were falling through the cracks, big time. Not to mention their family members, some of whom, at one polytrauma unit, were told to “go home and let the professionals do their job.” It was shameful and it galled me, tweaked my social justice gene. Whatever you thought about the war, surely all of us had a covenant with these warriors and families. They served and sacrificed and we needed to provide them the care, services and support they had earned.
As a psychologist-psychoanalyst and Zen Buddhist teacher whose parents were community organizers, and as the son of a combat veteran, I knew I had a skill set that could help. Why wait for someone else to do it, especially the government; just dive in I thought. So I did. I learned about contemporary military culture from a psychologist who’d consulted to the Navy, a Marine Colonel, and an Army Lt. Col and social worker. My real teachers were the spouses, parents, children, and the troops and veterans themselves.
My initial vision was dual-track: On one hand, provide expert psychological treatment from a cohort of trained therapists offering free confidential care for any service member, veteran or family member, as long as needed, no matter how complex the problem. On the other hand, I knew we needed to create a safe, unconditionally welcoming place where all would feel truly at ease. It needed to be free, include families, and be in beautiful, peaceful places. Where vets could connect with one another, families too, learn wellness practices for PTS, enjoy creative arts and vigorous recreation in the great outdoors, and simple secular rituals that helped recognize and integrate experiences. I thought such a environment would itself be healing. And it was. Retreats were not therapy but boy were they therapeutic.
From 2007 to today, Coming Home has served over 2,500 from 45 states. The Defense Centers of Excellence DCoE the Office of Warrior and Family Care of the Joint Chiefs have recognized us as a trusted leader in reintegration programming. Our research data is soon to be published in a peer-reviewed professional journal. We’ve provided retreats for families, for women veterans, student veterans, Veteran Toolkit Workshops that bring together career development, peer support and wellness practices, and Equine-facilitated wellness workshops.
We watched stigma ebb as retreat participants shared their stories. So, beginning in 2010, we added resource fairs toward the end of most of our programs, enabling vets and families to connect with important local resources such as benefits, employment, housing, mental health, financial and legal services.
For the remainder of 2012 we are devoting all our energies to building a sustainable platform from which we can expand our services. We hope to be developing additional training and support programs for veterans and spouses transitioning to civilian life and those looking to build their careers.
Please visit our website to learn more and see how you can participate.
-Dr. Joseph Bobrow, Roshi
Dr. Joseph Bobrow, Roshi
Joseph Bobrow is the founder and president of the Coming Home Project, a non-profit organization of psychotherapists, veterans, and interfaith leaders, whose integrative, evidence-based, nationally recognized programs help Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, service members, and their families alleviate the emotional, social-family, and spiritual injuries of war. A psychologist-psychoanalyst, Joseph is also a community organizer and Zen master. He founded Deep Streams Institute in San Francisco which offers Zen Buddhist practice; provides continuing education for mental health professionals; and serves the community through the non-denominational Coming Home Project. The author of Zen and Psychotherapy: Partners in Liberation, Joseph blogs on Huffington Post and Psychology Today about critical issues in veteran care and the interplay of community-based, psychologically and spiritually informed approaches to transforming trauma — individually, relationally and culturally. He teaches throughout the United States and abroad.