As we
continue to celebrate women during the month of March, today we highlight
Aynisa Leonardo, Military Wellness Program Coordinator and Family Reintegration
Program Director with Holliswood Hospital and Hope For The Warriors®. 

Aynisa is our guest blogger.

members sign up to serve for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which
being a tradition of honor, devotion to duty, and a love of country, understanding
they might make the ultimate sacrifice. 

that contract neglects to mention is that a different sort of price may have to
be paid in return—being physically or psychologically wounded.  The cost involves isolation, instability,
loss, void, and conflict, and these are the perils that treatment providers
must learn to examine and support. Finding a way to help clients mesh all of
these variables into one integrated and healthy lifestyle can be an elusive
goal, and given all of the complexities at play, it’s no surprise why.


Service members must constantly evolve
and re-establish themselves as their environment changes, creating a physical
and emotional strain on the entire family.  These crises are layered and
intertwined with aspects of career, relationships, and moral values. Service men
and women undergo the stress of extended trainings and/or deployments, which
result in displacement from home. Wounded service members are thrust into an
array of unpredictable circumstances, related to duty stations, medical boards,
continued deployments, expectations, standards, early retirements, and career
changes. All of these factors necessitate a sense of continuous adaptability,
which can interrupt a person’s constancy and personal identity. Without a
steady foundation, they struggle to cultivate connections with each other,
their community, their society, the world at large, and ultimately themselves.

recovery often requires several role inversions: From a position of strength to
vulnerability, from a state of emotional numbness to saturation, from a
definitive identity to the unknown, and ultimately from wounded to survivor.  Supporting this variability means to
understand that loss is a part of life, and that they must grieve in order to

Another important consideration
is to understand the military member in the context of their support system,
often a family.  Military families have
the capability to display unimaginable levels of unconditional support through
even the darkest hours. Family-focused treatment is integral to the wounded,
ill, or injured service member’s recovery, as a strengthened and informed
family sets the stage for their healing process. Through a course of reciprocal
healing, the entire family unit learns how to develop a “new normal” of balanced and productive dynamics, with
convergent goals and expectations. 


Using standard methods alone may
be enough to meet basic clinical needs.  However,
advancements in progressive treatment options are required in order to transcend
clients into areas of existential growth and sustainability. Through a
combination of verbal and other expressive modalities, the service member and
their family is able to heal, both independently and collectively. An
integrated model should include education, skills-building, evidence based
treatments, holistic techniques, readjustment counseling, and social/peer

Providers must also understand
that this model of recovery cannot be done alone.  Strategic collaborations are essential, in
order to combine missions and support continuums of care for clients and
families. This is the treatment philosophy of our Family Reintegration Program,
which is a partnered endeavor between Holliswood Hospital and Hope for the

You can learn more about this
program at the following links: Family Reintegration Program and


Traumatic experiences cause physical,
psychological, emotional, and physiological effects.  A trauma survivor often experiences symptoms
of both the mind and body concurrently. 
There has been increasing evidence on the correlation between brain
functions and trauma. Brain development theorist Bruce Perry discusses how
incoming trauma events become encoded in specific areas of the brain, and thus
are uniquely accessed and processed.  His
studies reveal that “a traumatized brain is compelled to train its focus away
from language and verbal content, and to fix instead on non-verbal danger cues.
This is why interventions that are based on a strictly cognitive,
problem-solving approach cannot impact terror-driven behavior.” (Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How
They Heal, Belleruth Naparstek
These findings reinforce the efficacy of symbolic and non-verbal methods
in trauma-focused therapy. The following pictures show a series of Art Therapy directives
completed by service members in treatment, as part of their respective therapeutic
processes. You will commonly notice themes of transformation, representative of
the paradigm shift that accompanies recovery.

As new
treatment options become available, mental health professionals must
continually adapt their methodologies to ensure that today’s service members
receive the most effective treatment possible. 
By using integrative care, in
to standard practices, providers are able to go beyond words and
help clients and their families reach more impactful and longstanding resolutions.

We posted a story about how art therapy helps families at Holliswood Hospital.  Read here.

If you
would like to learn more about a treatment program that implements this model/approach,
please visit:   

Aynisa Leonardo, LCAT ATR-BC, Military Wellness
Program Coordinator/Family Reintegration Program Director,
Holliswood Hospital/Hope for the Warriors®