Positive Psychology Approach to Improve Health, Rehabilitation, & Education Outcomes in Veterans in Higher Education

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Emre Umucu (Section Editor)

Michigan State University

STUDENT VETERANS EXPERIENCE ADVERSE PSYCHOSOCIAL STRESSORS and disabilities associated with their previous military experience, which ultimately and negatively affect their college adjustment, well-being, and transition to employment (Umucu et al., 2018, 2020, 2021). In a study, authors (Elnitsky et al., 2018) reported that student Veterans experience high rates of chronic pain (92.7%), PTSD symptoms (77.9%), traumatic brain injury (TBI) symptoms (26.0%), and comorbidities as the polytrauma clinical triad (14.2%), causing psychiatric, cognitive, and physical disabilities. One study (Umucu et al., 2018) also reported that 39% of student Veterans experience service-connected disabilities. Percentages of service-connected disability and conditions could be higher given some student Veterans with disabilities are not aware of their disability or do not seek help.

Although disabilities are common in student Veterans, only 5.2% student Veterans used disability services, about 19% used counseling services, and about 37% used student health services (Elnitsky et al., 2018) During their service, Veterans learn military culture that values courage, resilience, selflessness, and strengths. Research shows that feeling that providers lack an understanding of military culture is associated with poor intervention outcomes in Veterans with mental health concerns (Meyer & Wynn, 2018). Military cultural competence may help professionals to bridge the military-civilian gap (Messerschmitt-Coen, 2021).

We believe that positive psychology may help clinicians, educators, researchers, and policymakers to work with student Veterans by implementing strengths-based counseling techniques that are consistent with military culture. Seligman et al. (2005) defined positive psychology as “an umbrella term for the study of positive emotion, positive character traits, and enabling institutions” (p. 410). To continue reading click here.