MST-Related Treatment and Support | Resources for Veterans - Mental Health
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MST-Related Treatment and Support | Resources for Veterans

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Military Sexual Trauma

Treatment

MST can be a very difficult life experience, but recovery is possible. VA has a range of services available to meet MST survivors where they are at in their recovery.

Treatment at VA

VA provides free treatment for any physical or mental health conditions related to experiences of MST.

  • These services are available to Veterans and most former Service members with an Other Than Honorable or uncharacterized (entry-level) discharge. Standard length of service requirements do not apply to eligibility for MST-related care, and some of these individuals may be able to receive MST-related care even if they are not eligible for other VA care. Service connection (that is, a VA disability rating) is not needed. Former National Guard and Reserves members with federal active duty service or a service-connected disability who were discharged under honorable conditions or with an Other Than Honorable discharge can also receive MST-related care; the service-connected disability does not need to be related to their experiences of MST.
  • Current Service members can also receive services related to MST.  At VA’s Vet Centers, current Service members can receive MST-related mental health counseling, and no TRICARE referral is needed. Services at Vet Centers are confidential with respect to the Department of Defense (DoD). Current Service members can also receive MST-related care at VA medical facilities, but a TRICARE referral is required in most cases, and general TRICARE copayment requirements may apply. Current Service members’ records from services at VA medical facilities are available to DoD through VA-DoD open health care record sharing.

Note: this site uses the term “Veterans” in places, but it is meant to include all these groups.

  • Individuals do not need to have reported MST experiences when they happened or have other documentation that they occurred.
  • Every VA health care facility has an MST Coordinator who serves as a contact person for MST-related issues and who can assist you with accessing care. For questions about treatment and health care options related to MST, contact the MST Coordinator near you.
  • MST-related outpatient services are available at every VA medical center and many VA community-based outpatient clinics. Services are organized differently at different facilities, and MST-related care is available even if a facility does not have a specific “MST treatment team.” Mental health services include psychological assessment and evaluation, medication evaluation and treatment, and individual and group psychotherapy.
  • MST-related outpatient counseling is also available through VA’s community-based Vet Centers.
  • For Veterans needing more intensive treatment and support, VA also provides MST-related mental health treatment in residential or inpatient settings.
  • Because some Veterans do not feel comfortable in mixed-gender treatment settings, some facilities have separate programs for men and women. All residential and inpatient programs have separate sleeping areas for men and women.
  • Veterans also can feel free to ask to meet with a clinician of a particular gender if it would help them feel more comfortable.

Evidence-Based Therapies

MST is an experience, not a diagnosis. As with other forms of trauma, MST can impact you in different ways. No matter what you are experiencing, treatments and resources are available, and VA supports many paths to healing from the impact of MST.

For individuals who have mental health diagnoses such as PTSD or depression related to the experience of MST, evidence-based therapies are among the most effective treatments. They can include the following — which are in many cases available at a local VA medical center.

  • Prolonged Exposure (PE) helps Veterans with a diagnosis of PTSD to gradually approach and address traumatic memories, feelings and situations. By confronting these challenges directly, Veterans may see PTSD symptoms begin to decrease.
  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) helps Veterans with a diagnosis of PTSD to identify how traumatic experiences have affected their thinking, to evaluate those thoughts, and to change them. Through CPT, Veterans may develop more healthy and balanced beliefs about themselves others, and the world.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a structured, time-limited therapy that can help Veterans who experience depression, anxiety, substance use disorders or other mental health difficulties. This treatment can help Veterans develop balanced and helpful thoughts about themselves, others and the future. CBT can help you modify your thought patterns to change negative moods and behaviors.
  • Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) is a therapy that can help Veterans who experience depression focus on identifying and evaluating relationship issues that may contribute to their depression. IPT can also help you build social skills to deal with problems in your relationships and improve your overall quality of life.
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can help Veterans overcome their emotional pain by promoting positive actions and choices that align with their values. Through this therapy, you may increase your ability to recognize and achieve what truly matters most to you in life.
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) helps Veterans with substance use disorders focus on personal motivations for change. This therapy looks at the reasons behind your desire to make a change and the potential benefits of that change.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) helps Veterans address stress and strong emotions, learn mindfulness and distress tolerance, and develop and practice new interpersonal skills.

Treatment for physical health conditions related to MST is also available.

Explore more potential treatment options at VA by visiting the Learn About Treatment page.

Take the Next Step

Learn how to access free MST-related care at VA

In Veterans’ own words

Veterans who experienced military sexual trauma share their stories. They describe the challenges they faced and how their lives were affected. Eventually, these men and women reached out for support. Hear how they were able to get on the road to recovery.

When Matt was in the Navy, he was physically and sexually assaulted. He began drinking heavily. When he left the military, he had feelings of guilt and isolated himself. He decided to seek support at VA and began PTSD treatment. Eventually, he opened up about the military sexual trauma he experienced and with help was able to turn his life around.

View more videos on Make the Connection.

Find Help Today

Facility Locator

Each VA medical center has an MST Coordinator who can assist you in accessing MST-related care. Use the MST Coordinator locator to find one near you.

Find a VHA MST Coordinator

Learn more about Telehealth Options

From your home, the clinic, or the hospital, VA telehealth technologies make it easier for you to connect with your VA care team.

View Local Resources

Help for Homeless Veterans: 877-4AID-VET
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Caregiver Support: 855-260-3274
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Find out if you’re eligible: Health Benefits Explorer
Veterans Health Benefits Guide
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Women Veterans Call Center: 1-855-VA-WOMEN