Recently, Dr. Pamela Hall, Ph.D., was kind enough to take the time to talk with me about her book, PTSD Unplugged. Dr. Hall is a psychologist who specializes in working with veterans who developed PTSD as a result of their service, and she has helped approximately 6,000 veterans through her work.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is one of the most common diagnoses among veterans, but many are reluctant to seek help or do not know where to turn. Dr. Hall emphasizes believing people when they say they are struggling, and she firmly believes that someone cannot “fake” having PTSD. On the other hand, someone who is struggling might have difficulty reaching out: “How does a broken brain know it needs help?”
Trauma can mean a lot of things, but veterans’ experience of trauma is unique. In addition, stigma looks different for this population. She told me, “We don’t talk about trauma with our friends and family,” and in the military, there is the idea that help-seeking is a sign of “weakness,” or being told to “stop crying” or shamed for showing big emotions.
Through her practice, Dr. Hall identified the barriers to veterans seeking treatment, including stigma and misinformation about trauma. She shared with me that veterans tend to wait approximately 10 years before seeking help or not wanting to seek help if they feel their symptoms are “mild.”
Dr. Hall’s book provides comprehensive education about trauma and PTSD for veterans, including a step-by-step guide for seeking help while simultaneously tearing down stigma about what it means to receive mental health services. She not only provides instructions for veterans seeking services, but she offers a structured interview resource for providers to help clients feel safe and comfortable opening up when they come for their appointment.
Dr. Hall aims to take a “grassroots” approach to mental health, emphasizing public health and education without taking a “top down approach” to this education. She provides evidence-based information without paternalism and while still elevating the voices of those living with the diagnosis.
Dr. Hall has a talent for accepting and normalizing emotions in therapy. We bonded over how clients are often surprised or embarrassed if they begin to cry in their session. She said that she tells them, “If I was telling a joke, I would expect you to laugh, but I’m not joking right now.” She also reassures them that the tears, though uncomfortable, will stop eventually because “There are only so many tears.”
Recovery is an uphill battle, but one that Dr. Hall says is certainly worth the effort: “Recovering from PTSD is hard. Living with PTSD is harder.”