Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Peer Groups Give Veterans Hope

April 6, 2010

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“Each Veteran who attends has both something to teach and share with others as well as something to learn from other Veterans as a means of recovery,” said Marine Corps Veteran Ray Wodynksi with Local Recovery Coordinator/Recovery Services Consultant Cristy Gamez-Galka, Ph.D.
PHOTO: Bobbi Gruner

 

HOUSTON — Veterans talking to Veterans about their emotional and mental problems is good medicine.

That is the idea behind the Vet to Vet education and support group, a mental health recovery-oriented program with the goal of Veterans helping other Veterans. The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) began offering these extraordinary meetings about three years ago.

“The program is open to any Veteran, of any age, of any era,” said Ray Wodynksi, a Marine Veteran and one of the founders of the Houston peer-support group. “You don’t have to be enrolled with the VA and you don’t need an appointment. Show up when you can and leave when you are ready to move on.”

There are three meetings at the MEDVAMC each week: Wednesday, 6-7 p.m. in Room 6B-117; Thursday, 9-10 a.m. in Room 6B-117; and Thursday, 11 a.m. – noon in Room 6C-167.

The meetings consist of Veterans teaching and learning from one another. The Veteran-led meetings are based on a partnership with the mental health system. The main focus is on the unique experience of Veterans, and how they can learn to live with problems posed by mental illness and/or addiction. However, participants in Vet to Vet do not just vent; instead, there is an educational component, with Veterans reading and discussing materials recognized in the field of psychosocial rehabilitation.
                           
“Each Veteran who attends has both something to teach and share with others as well as something to learn from other Veterans as a means of recovery,” said Wodynksi. “We learn from each other. That’s where our motto, ‘Each One! Reach One! Teach One!’ comes from.”

Veterans who have participated in the program praise its distinctive features such as sharing similar life experiences, providing safe and non-judgmental social interactions, and enjoying camaraderie with other Veterans.

For more information, contact Wodynski at 832-289-3810 or Cristy Gamez-Galka, Ph.D. at 713-791-1414, ext. 4378. Veterans are also invited to stop by the Vet to Vet Office located in Room 6C-167 any Thursday, 8 a.m. to noon and have a cup of coffee.

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