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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Women Veterans' Perceptions of Mental Health Outpatient Services

  • Author(s): Williams, Lindsay
  • Advisor(s): Maliski, Sally
  • et al.

Women Veterans are the largest growing population Veterans, yet have a significant mental health disparity, greater than both civilian women and Veteran men. This disparity continues in the mental health outpatient treatment options for women Veterans. Veteran Administration (VA) healthcare services may not be suited to their needs as women, and civilian services are not well suited to manage their needs as Veterans. Therefore, this dissertation study used constructivist Grounded Theory methods to explore the experiences of women Veterans when accessing mental health outpatient services, their decision-making process when make the choice to enter mental health service, and aspects of the experience that are important or meaningful to them.

Twelve women Veterans revealed meaningful, personal stories on their experiences of trauma and their use of mental health outpatient services. While addressing each of these factors, what emerged from the data was a broader Grounded Theory Process model of how women Veterans process trauma, and the categories of Trauma, Transitions, Identity and Structure. Women Veterans who participated in the study used mental health outpatient services to assist in reestablishing identity after trauma and to propel forward in their lives.This research provides key insight into how women Veterans make healthcare related choices and process traumatic events, like military sexual trauma (MST). This has implications for research, practice, and policy to improve the provision of care for women Veterans.

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