Common questions Veterans ask their providers

If you’re thinking about getting help for PTSD, you may have some questions about what to expect in PTSD treatment. Many Veterans share similar concerns when they talk to a mental health provider for the first time. 

Can a mental health provider really understand what I’ve been through?  

Mental health providers at VA have years of training and experience working with Veterans who’ve been through traumatic events. They’ll also ask you questions to learn more about your experience serving in the military and create a treatment plan that meets your needs.

There are some [mental health providers] who aren’t Veterans, but we have the experience and knowledge to help you. And we want you to teach us…so we can better serve you.” 

Dr. Ebony Butler, Clinical Psychologist

If I start thinking and talking about the traumatic event, will my PTSD symptoms get worse? 

Focusing on a traumatic event can bring up painful feelings. But therapy gives Veterans a safe place to work through those feelings at their own pace. With guidance from an experienced professional, you’ll learn how to manage your PTSD symptoms. 

I think the most common concern that I hear…is ‘Will I fall apart if I talk about the trauma?’ The truth is, therapy takes place in a safe, controlled environment, and you only go as far as you feel comfortable going at any point.”

Dr. Rebecca Liu, Clinical Psychologist

How long does therapy take?  

In trauma-focused therapy — the most effective treatment for PTSD — you will see your mental health provider once a week for 8 to 12 weeks. Depending on your personal situation, you may need more or fewer therapy sessions.

Most of the time, treatment’s going to take 8 to 12 weeks. It’s a weekly therapy. Especially if a patient’s willing to work hard, they’re going to be done after that point.”

Dr. Matthew Yoder, Clinical Psychologist

Will taking medicine for PTSD change who I am?  

It’s normal to feel nervous about taking medicine for mental health concerns. But medicine won’t control you or change your personality. In fact, medicine can help your brain work the way it did before you went through a traumatic event. 

The only thing that medications do is help you make more of those brain chemicals…so that you don’t have the symptoms of PTSD to the extent that you did before.”  

Dr. Emily Keram, Psychiatrist

What will others think if I decide to get treatment? 

Many Veterans worry that other people will judge their decision to get treatment for PTSD. But VA providers like Dr. Kimberly Hirohito see asking for help as an act of courage.

You might be concerned about what people think about you if you’re seeking mental health treatment, if you walk into the mental health side of the lobby. I see it as an act of immense courage, immense strength, immense resiliency.”

Dr. Kimberly Hirohito, Clinical Psychologist

Is my trauma “severe enough”?

Some Veterans may question if the traumatic event they experienced was “severe enough” to cause PTSD. But VA providers like Dr. Laura Gibson encourage Veterans to seek help for any mental health concerns, no matter how small or big they may seem. A mental health provider can confirm if you have PTSD and help you figure out if treatment is right for you. 

I really want to encourage folks to come to the VA if you’re struggling at all with mental health issues and to know that you deserve care at the VA and your issues are significant enough to be taken seriously.” 

Dr. Laura Gibson, Clinical Psychologist 

What if I’m struggling with drug or alcohol use? 

Some Veterans with PTSD may use drugs or alcohol to cope with their symptoms. In most cases, mental health providers recommend that Veterans get treatment for substance use and PTSD at the same time. 

Posttraumatic stress disorder and substance use can be treated [at the same time]. It’s only when…you get drunk all the time, you get high all the time every day — that’s when we really have to focus on the substance use first. Otherwise, it’s best to get treatment as soon as possible for both.”

Dr. Ron Acierno, Clinical Psychologist

Is it ever too late to get help? 

It’s never too late! Even Veterans who served many years ago can benefit from PTSD treatment.  

What you’ve been doing hasn’t been working. Coming into treatment, this can be a good time to try something else, try something new. And we have seen Veterans who benefit from the treatments that we provide even after they’ve experienced traumas that occurred many years ago.” 

Dr. Abigail Angkaw, Clinical Psychologist

Learn more about PTSD treatment

Watch more videos featuring VA mental health providers and find out what to expect in PTSD treatment.

Take the next step toward treatment 

Take our PTSD self-screen, then connect with a mental health provider to find out if treatment is right for you.