In 2004, psychiatrist Judith T. Broder, M.D. attended a theatre performance of “The Sand Storm: Stories from the Front,” a series of 10 monologues describing the Iraq war from the perspective of active duty marines. The play was written by Sean Huze, himself an active duty marine at that time. It was performed by Iraq veterans, including Huze, who later developed the theatre company VetStage. The play dramatically illustrated the horror of war and the trauma it brings to the young men and women who carry the burden. After the play, Dr. Broder felt a professional obligation to help our troops and their families manage the myriad of war-related mental health issues.
Dr. Broder then approached the Ernest S. Lawrence Trauma Center, whose mission is to provide free psychoanalytically-informed psychological services to populations “in-need” or “at-risk” in and around Los Angeles. She proposed that they jointly start a program to serve veterans. The Ernest S. Lawrence Trauma Center, under the aegis of the non-profit educational institution, the Los Angeles Institute and Society for Psychoanalytic Studies, agreed that its psychoanalysts could make a contribution to the community by providing free care for our service men and women and their families.
Dr. Broder started The Soldiers Project in 2004. She paid for a telephone line, started a website and gathered together a group of volunteer mental health professionals. They reached out to veterans groups, the VA, military bases, and community venues to raise awareness of the psychological consequences of war and the availability of free, confidential, individualized counseling, at private offices throughout Southern California.
Our licensed mental health professionals offer free psychotherapy to any military service member/vet who has served in Iraq or Afghanistan. We also offer free therapy to their loved ones – boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, children, parents and grandparents. There is no red tape, there are no fees, and there is no arbitrary limit on the number of sessions provided. We see individuals, couples, children, and families. We configure our therapy to meet the client’s needs. Because we are in private practice, we have the flexibility to see people prior to, during and/or following return from deployment and to keep in touch via phone or the internet if needed.
More than nine years later, The Soldiers Project in the Southern California area alone has well over 200 volunteer therapists and more than 400 in the entire country. With calls coming in from all over the United States, affiliated locations have developed in Sacramento, Washington, Chicago, New York City, Long Island, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming.