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After serving nearly 39 years in the United States Army, BJ Constantine retired and began his second career as a therapist. He’s currently using his extensive experience and training to help active duty military personnel, veterans, and anyone struggling with anxiety, depression, or trauma-related issues.
We sat down with BJ to hear his story, what’s most rewarding and challenging about being a therapist, and how he takes care of his own mental health.
Amy: Why did you become a therapist?
BJ: My interest in becoming a therapist started about ten years before I retired from the US Army.
As an Army leader, the most enjoyable part of my day was providing advice, counsel, and mentorship to the soldiers and civilians in my military units. I saw both successes and challenges as these individuals maneuvered through the military’s mental health services, and I wanted to be a part of increasing those successes.
On more than one occasion, I found myself accompanying a soldier who was struggling with some mental health issue (such as anxiety, depression, and/or PTSD symptoms) to the behavioral health clinic, and sitting with them until they got to see a provider.
I wanted them to know that I was proud of them for deciding to seek help, and assure them that there was no judgment or disappointment from me associated with their decision to seek help.
Amy: What a gift that must have been to each of those soldiers. Tell us about your specialty, and why you chose it.
BJ: My specialty is trauma and PTSD.
I was fortunate to complete my postgraduate internship at the Tripler Army Medical Center’s Behavioral Health Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). In the three years I was with this clinic, I worked with and learned from some incredibly talented clinicians and behavioral health technicians.
I quickly learned that my passion was helping people recover from their traumatic experiences—by accepting that their traumatic event occurred, and by challenging some of the cognitive distortions or erroneous self-beliefs they had about themselves, other people, and the world in general as a result.
Amy: What do you find most rewarding about being a therapist?
BJ: Finding ways to help my clients ask themselves deep and thoughtful questions so that, together, we can find answers and solutions to their challenges.
Often, we are so caught up in our own thoughts and beliefs about ourselves that we find it difficult to step back and see the big picture—what really matters, and what’s just small stuff.
I particularly appreciate when someone I’m working with implements a practice, an exercise, or an approach, or makes a change to their daily routine that works—and they realize that it works—and report that success in our next session. That’s rewarding!
It’s also rewarding when a trauma survivor is able, after completing a treatment modality, to describe their trauma without fear, anxiety, or other physical symptoms. When they accept that there are memories—and there will always be memories— but those memories can’t hurt them.
Amy: What do you find most challenging?
BJ: When a client resists or is reluctant to change. When I’ve used all the tools in my therapeutic “kit bag,” I find it frustrating when I just can’t help facilitate change.
I find it challenging to acknowledge my own limitations, and to accept that I can’t help everyone. I’ve had some remarkable supervisors in my work, and I often reflect on their wisdom and experience. I’m grateful for them every single day.
Amy: How do you handle those challenging days or tough times with clients?
BJ: I take daily walks on the beautiful nature trails in my community. This is my personal therapy and my own mindfulness.
I remind myself that I’ve done my best, and reflect on what I’ve learned throughout the course of the day. I do my best not to carry the despair or burdens of the people I’m working with.
I do, however, try to reflect on and celebrate the good things I hear from clients—their successes, triumphs, and joys. My wife is also a tremendous inspiration to me.
Amy: Why did you decide to become a Spring Health Provider?
BJ: I was immediately impressed by Spring Health’s unique approach to providing mental healthcare—especially the organization’s goal to eliminate barriers to seeking and attaining quality, effective, evidence-based mental health care.
Employers who make Spring Health available to their team members are sending a clear message to their employees: we want you to be healthy and happy, and we want to provide you with the resources that can help get you there.
Employers are, I believe, beginning to realize the true benefits of making mental health counseling and therapy services available to their team members. Some of those benefits likely include fewer sick days, increased productivity, and the employee’s commitment to and longevity in the organization.
Amy: What do you enjoy most about being a Spring Health Provider?
BJ: I enjoy the clients I work with through Spring Health because they present with a true desire to feel better—and to have a better quality of life. They are committed to therapy and are seldom “no-shows” for our sessions.
Most of these clients do their out-of-session “homework” to carry the work we do in session throughout their work week and personal life.
Working with Spring Health, I am able to set my own hours and the number of clients I see in a day. I appreciate the tremendous work of the Care Navigators, Care Support Coordinators, Care Team, and Provider Operations/Provider Support Team.
It seems like there’s a tremendous “behind the scenes” group ensuring my success as a therapist, and our clients’ success in achieving their therapeutic goals. I have truly enjoyed working with every professional on the Spring Health team!
Amy: September is Self-Improvement month. How do you take care of your own mental health, and what advice do you have for other therapists?
BJ: I practice mindfulness exercises daily. Several times.
As I mentioned earlier, nature is my happy place. If I can get out for a hike in the wilderness, or get on my mountain bike, it’s a good day. In the wintertime, it’s hiking or skiing.
I believe that It’s important to “practice what we preach.” If we’re encouraging our clients to practice mindfulness, exercise, eat healthy foods, and have a positive and supportive social network, shouldn’t we be doing the same?
And yes… I work with my own therapist, who really helps me keep things in perspective and find ways to be my best self.