New VA hires to include marriage therapists, professional counselors


From Stars and Striples by Leo Shane

WASHINGTON – The 1,900 new mental health staffers to be added to the Department of Veterans Affairs workforce in coming months will include two new types of specialists: marriage and family therapists, and licensed professional mental health counselors.

That’s worth noting because for years those professionals and therapists have been largely shut out of the VA system, which they say only hurts veterans’ health care. Their complaints stem from local VA facilities’ preference to hire licensed social workers in lieu of developing new standards for other specialists.

Now, VA officials say, new therapists and counselors will help provide mental health diagnostic and psychosocial treatment services for veterans and their families. In a statement, VA officials said the goal of the new move is to provide “a complete range of services” to deal with veterans’ problems and “help keep families together.

The department has developed new qualification requirements for those new hires, including new professional standards boards to review employment opportunities and promotion opportunities for those hires.

But a handful of therapists and counselors who reached out to Stars and Stripes after the announcement said they’re still hesitant to welcome the news as a true change in philosophy from the department, at least until they see how the hiring process progresses.

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