Every week, two friends get together with their guitars for a jam session. But this isn’t just any ordinary date. These two army veterans are undergoing music therapy at the Fort Worth Vet Center in Texas.
Joshua Pope and Joshua Ashby met while stationed in Germany. Both from Texas, they instantly became friends and supported each other when their unit deployed to Afghanistan in 2010.
“We met in Germany and we were deployed together. We were on the same crew,” Pope said. “I was his gunner, he was the driver and we practically remained friends.”
Rehab counselor Van Hall has led the music therapy group at the Fort Worth Vet Center for the past few years.
Music encourages veterans to open up
“I use music on many different levels to help veterans rehabilitate, whether it’s expressing themselves, learning something new, or completing a task,” Hall said. “It also helps encourage veterans to open up and talk once we start playing music.”
Music has always been a big part of Hall’s life and he tapped into it while he was in the Navy.
“Music has helped me through tough times and dealing with a lot of isolation, isolation and [being] away from home for years,” Hall said. “I was overseas three of my four years in the Navy.”
Music therapy is just one of many therapeutic and counseling services available to veterans, active duty military, and members of the Reserve and National Guard at the Fort Worth Vet Center.
“The jam is almost spiritual.”
“Every time we jam together and blend into a song, something is released inside you. It’s almost spiritual,” Hall said. “You come out a little calmer.”
Hall explains music therapy as a mindfulness technique, distracting someone from situations and thoughts that can cause anxiety. When used at home, he says the technique is also helpful in reducing general anxiety levels and avoiding adrenaline spikes.
Coaching, advising and listening, Hall works with veterans and their individual musical skill levels. In the past, he has used the guitar, keyboards, songwriting, and even the ukulele as his tools.
“I had to learn to play the ukulele alongside a veteran,” Hall said, laughing at the memory.
Someone positive makes all the difference
“Van is helping us more than he thinks,” Pope said. “Coming to talk to Van, someone positive, makes all the difference. It’s nice to be here and I look forward to these meetings.
Veterinary Centers are community counseling centers offering a wide range of counseling, education and referral services, free of charge in a safe and confidential environment to eligible veterans, active duty members (including National Guard and Reserve ) and their families.
The Veterinary Center’s counselors and outreach staff, many of whom are veterans, are experienced and prepared to discuss the tragedies of war, loss, bereavement and transitioning from trauma.
Services include, but are not limited to:
- Post-traumatic stress.
- Military sexual trauma.
- Grief counseling.
- Marriage and family therapy.
- Suicide Intervention Resources.
- Assistance with VA benefits.
Veterans in crisis, or friends and family affected by a crisis, can always connect with caring, trained responders on the VA Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, text 838255 or www.veteranscrisisline.net.