Pilot Test: BrainWise Taught to Previously Homeless Veterans

Posted On: February 13, 2023

To address the multiple needs of previously homeless veterans with serious mental illness (SMI), the Veterans Administration (VA) offers a number of specialized services, some which are imbedded into transitional housing programs that offer treatment for mental health and substance abuse disorders. Despite the variety of services available, many Veterans do not succeed in their goals of obtaining housing and integrating into the community and there is a need for novel approaches that might promote self-sufficiency and goal attainment.

To this end, Dr. Jared Greenberg, a psychiatrist at the Greater Los Angeles VA, contacted us after reading published research that found the BrainWise program had improved executive functions in previously homeless men.

This finding led him to develop a pilot study to test BrainWise with a small group of inpatient veterans at the Domiciliary, a transitional house and treatment program located on the West Los Angeles VA campus.

VA BrainWise Group Illustration 2
VA Veterans Group Illustration

Dr. Greenberg completed teaching BrainWise to two small groups of Veterans and he and his research team are now analyzing data they collected from the study. For this newsletter article, he shared his observations teaching BrainWise and how participants reacted to the material.

Dr. Greenberg said the Veterans at the Domiciliary are at a “pivotal time for transition” to receive the intervention programs and tools the Domiciliary offers. None of the offerings specifically teach executive function skills, and testing BrainWise was an opportunity to find out how Veterans would react to the program. His first comments for the interview were: “Every single participant’s reaction was overwhelmingly positive to an extent I could not have expected.”

Dr. Greenberg said the participants who completed the program – Veterans who have experienced years of mental health issues and treatments – shared their impressions and experiences of BrainWise in focus groups held throughout the course of the study.

The participants indicated that BrainWise was a “life-changing” experience and described how the program helped them pull together skills and knowledge gained from other resources, groups, and treatments. He said, “They really loved BrainWise and felt it should be offered to all Veterans.”

Dr. Greenberg praised the Veterans throughout and called them “amazing individuals.” He said their enthusiasm for BrainWise created a positive buzz throughout the Domiciliary, and this has led to “lots of interest” among staff and veterans.

At the end, he said a veteran asked him to “thank Dr. Barry for the effort she made to take a very a complicated subject and make it easy to understand.”

The BrainWise for Veterans project started in 2018 and was delayed because of COVID. Dr. Greenberg, his co-investigators, and other members of his research team graciously adapted to the changing issues. They aim to publish the study’s findings in the near future.

BrainWise team members provided the foundation that underlies the study’s success. I am closing the newsletter with links to articles that provide background information and identifies BrainWise trainers, instructors, and researchers.

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