Robert Shulman, MD: Helping Vets with PTSD from Military Sexual Trauma

The Road Home Program has had great success treating both female and male survivors of military sexual trauma. Through cognitive processing therapy and other therapies like mindfulness and therapeutic arts—working with providers and alongside peers who have had similar experiences—survivors of military sexual trauma can transform their feelings of powerlessness into a stronger sense of self.


Robert Shulman, MD is the director of the Road Home Program at Rush University Medical Center, part of the Wounded Warrior Project's Warrior Care Network

For information about treatments for PTSD please visit The Treatment Hub.

In terms of treating military sexual trauma, it can be very difficult. A lot of the trauma occurs because of power gradient with figures of authority and such. And it’s a really difficult issue for many people to address. By the way, we both have male and female survivors of military sexual trauma that we work with. You know, these are people who, sometimes perpetrators are unknown to them, sometimes perpetrators are the people that they work with on a daily basis. And I think there’s a sense of powerlessness when it occurs within the military, that it’s hard to report something, it’s hard to report a superior officer and that it’s not well received and there’s also a punitive effect. And so I think a lot of the survivors are very hesitant to discuss and get into it, although once they do, once they do see that they can talk about the event and they can receive therapy and they could learn that they were not responsible and they didn’t bring this upon themselves and such, once those teachings can occur, they do well in our program. They actually do. The treatment that we offer for military sexual trauma is pretty much the same. It’s the cognitive reprocessing therapy, mindfulness, the art therapy, the different opportunities to express themselves, to work with the feelings, work with the emotions so that they can learn how to process better. There are some individuals that we see that have had prior trauma prior to the military trauma and that their military experience sort of extends a pattern, if you will. And those can be harder to treat. But we hang in there if they’re willing to hang in with us and follow the rules. Not everybody follows the rules - we’ve had to dismiss some individuals from our program if they’re unable to follow certain basic behavioral rules. But the ones that do stick it out tend to show benefit from the treatment, just being able to talk about it, address it, address it with a group of peers who’ve also experienced the military and similar experience. I think that there is benefit in that and therapeutic value in that. So at least survivors tend to - at least they do well in our program, and we hope that they can carry the lessons that they’ve learned back to civilian life with them. BrainLine is powered in part by Wounded Warrior Project to honor and empower post-9/11 injured service members, veterans, and their families.

Posted on BrainLine September 29, 2021. Reviewed September 29, 2021.

About the author: Robert B. Shulman, MD

Robert Shulman, MD is the Director of Road Home Program and currently acting chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Rush University Medical Center and Mental Health Service Line Director for the Rush University System for Health. He is a graduate of Lewis & Clark College and The Chicago Medical School (with many clinical rotations at the VA Hospital).

Professional headshot of Dr. Robert Shulman smiling at the camera, wearing a white doctor's coat, with a tall building in the background