California State University, Long Beach
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For Vets, CAPS Here To Help

Published: November 3, 2015

Every year, CSULB serves the educational needs of more than 400 student veterans/service members and their eligible dependents, and one of the most valuable resources is the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) office located in Brotman Hall.

“At CAPS, we recognize that the transition from military service to student life can be difficult. This is especially true for those who have served in combat, are still on active or reserve duty, or are dependents of student veterans/service members,” said CAPS Director Brad Compliment, a member of the university since 2008. “We also acknowledge that just like other students, life can be difficult and student veterans/service members can benefit from being heard or gaining a different perspective on a problem.”

CAPS is always respectful of the unique needs of veterans at CSULB, said Compliment.

“That is as true for those who have recently served and are now getting their education as it is for those who are returning for their education after some time between active duty and entering college. There are special needs they might have. It is always in connection with CAPS’ general services in terms of in-person counseling.”

Assistance is available not only to the veterans but to their children who are enrolled students at CSULB.

“The dependents of veterans may have concerns all their own,” said Compliment. “Whenever a person is a member of a veteran’s family, they are also affected by that person’s service to the country. If the veteran parent has served recently, there can be issues the family is going through now. For example, a long period of the parent being away from the family can be a part of what a person brings into CAPS.”

An issue veterans may bring to CAPS is the adjustment the veteran is making not only to civilian life but to life on a university campus.

“Many of the veterans who are now here have already been to community college,” Compliment explained. “Part of their challenge is adjusting to our campus while, at the same time, recognizing the differences in their experiences from the other students. It affects their sense of purpose and commitment, both very strong. It is part of CAPS mission to make sure the veterans recognize and build on what they already have in order to be successful students. Their age and experiences are part of what they bring to campus. It is important to recognize how they can use that to their advantage in terms of how they view what they’re learning and what they choose to study. Oftentimes, those choices do not come out of the blue but from the experiences they have had.”

Seeking help is rarely easy but veterans who come to CAPS are those who have made a conscious effort to do just that.

The Counseling and Psychological Services staff.
The Counseling and Psychological Services staff.

“Sometimes it is more difficult for veterans who have been trained to work out issues on their own,” said Compliment. “The important thing is that they want to be here at CAPS.”

Sometimes, a little encouragement is necessary for that first visit where meeting them externally or in conjunction with Veterans Services can be very helpful.

“Talking with campus professionals outside CAPS can be very helpful also,” he said. “Most people come on their own but they also come because they have spoken to somebody they trust about the services we have here. In general, people don’t enjoy walking into a strange office cold.”

The ability to bounce back, never easy, is fundamental for veterans seeking help.

“The concept of resilience is key for many people but for vets especially,” said Compliment. “How do we learn new ways of responding to old situations? How do we get in touch with those things about us that we can build on? Resilience is a way of doing that because, oftentimes, it is a way to deal with life issues. When I present to campus organizations, I explain we try to help people find new ways of dealing with old problems. That is also true for veteran students.”

There are different levels of response from CAPS according to veterans’ needs, which can be wide ranging.

“What we do best is serve as a first-response body,” he said. “It is very important to be able to assess the needs of the veterans who walk in our door. It is fundamental to forming a positive involvement. It is our responsibility as a counseling center to provide direct services, to provide psychoeducational development and to be able to provide referrals to the community such as the Veterans Administration. If the VA is an inappropriate connection, we can direct them to CSULB’s own Veterans Services and other community resources.”

For more information, visit the CAPS website.