Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Other Victims of Maj. Hasan: His Patients

The other victims

As a former Army psychologist, serving during the Korean War, I well understand "compassion fatigue," and the complex emotions involved in working with seriously wounded and mentally disabled soldiers. During my military service, mental health colleagues and I shared feelings of sadness about gut-wrenching stories we heard, and we often grieved along with our patients. Empathy and a strong, positive identification with patients is essential to successful treatment.

So given Maj. Hasan's ideology, I must question his ability to identify with patients who were "fighting Islam" (his words). And I have serious doubts about his competence, training and psychological fitness to treat soldiers embarking or returning from wars to which he was vehemently ideologically opposed.

My concern is not with Hasan's own stress from treating soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder, but rather with the harm he may have inflicted on his other victims - not those who were shot, but the many patients he treated.

As a clinician, I find it inconceivable that Hasan could have been an objective, nonjudgmental, validating therapist - considering his extremist Islamic views - while his patients were discussing the combat experiences, anger, survivor guilt and other intense emotions they experienced during and after engaging in warfare against Muslim enemies.

My concerns may be politically incorrect, but Hasan's ideology is a valid mental health treatment issue.

Related Thread:

Walter Reed: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

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