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NEWS | March 18, 2015

Psychological Health Program offers Reservists a place to find help

By Staff Sgt. William A. O'Brien Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

The Air Force Reserve Psychological Health Program offers short-term psychological treatment to Reservists in need of assistance.

The first of these positions was established at Joint Base Charleston and is run by Regan Morris, a licensed clinical social worker and an international certified addictions professional with more than 30 years of experience in her field. Today she's the 315th Airlift Wing director of psychological health.

"They had mental health treatment on the active duty Air Force side but the Air Force Reserve didn't have that option until this program was started in 2012," said Morris. "Due to the up-tempo deployment frequency of Reservists during the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, more Reserve units were experiencing combat. That is why the decision to establish this program was made."

The goal of the Air Force Reserve Psychological Health Program is to identify potential, short-term issues before they grow into larger problems.  There are currently about 20 reserve wings offering this program.

"Two thirds of my job is prevention," said Morris. "I do early intervention; somebody could come to me during their UTA weekend. I work on the weekends, so I'm available to help people in crisis situations, to help people who are stressed out."

To help units learn about how to deal with stress, Morris hosts squadron training sessions during commander's calls to teach ways to self-identify excessive stress as well as recognizing stress in their colleagues.

"I teach early identification methods for yourself as well as your co-workers. To help people who may be starting to have problems, I teach them about places where they can go to get help within their communities."

Morris teaches those who come to her about the options they have when they're on active duty status as well as helping them find resources when they're not in duty status.

"I'm licensed, I can evaluate somebody while they are in status and I can help people when they're not in status ensuring they're able to get the proper clinical services they need," said Morris.

While Morris' primary job is prevention, she is able to meet with Reservists on a limited basis to work through short-term problems.

"I can provide up to eight sessions for non-long-term problems. A long-term diagnosable issue requires the assistance available at a comprehensive mental health facility," said Morris. "I serve a different purpose.  I try to intervene before an issue becomes a full-blown problem. If somebody needs long-term treatment, I will work with them to find an appropriate course of treatment."

When traumatic issues happen with the wing, Morris is also tasked with providing grief counseling to those affected.

"In a stressful situation, people are eligible for up to four non-documented counseling sessions," said Morris. "Everybody deals with traumatic situations differently and I am able to be here to help see them through it."

According to Morris, part of her therapy is the environment she creates around her patients. "I set up the room in a very specific way. I want to create a very calming atmosphere for people. A place where they can breathe and slow their thoughts down. The room has muted tones to create calmness. I also have a water fountain to create a bit of white noise so nobody from the outside can hear what we discuss. I have pictures of my dad who was in the military so they can see that, while I may not have been in the service, I can relate to them."

Morris said the success she had in establishing the program is related directly to the care and support she received from her supervisor.

"Colonel Fontenella has been there for me and so supportive since the day I got here. From being understanding and allowing me time off when I experienced my own losses, to supporting me in how I decorated the room, he has meant so much to me in the time we have worked together."