Catherine Lieb – Listening to Stories of War

Listening to Stories of War:

Veterans, a Psychotherapist, and the VA’s Mission to Treat PTSD

An Iraq vet shows up at a VA mental health clinic. It was his mother’s idea.  She was so happy he survived the war.  Now she’s worried he won’t survive being home…

There is no expiration date for PTSD

Many warriors manage their psychological injuries for years without seeking professional help. Unfortunately, their loved ones suffer along with them.

Families of US Civil War veterans called it soldier’s heart. WWI Soldiers coined the phrase shell shock. WWII psychiatrists called it battle fatigue or war neurosis. After Vietnam veterans marched on Washington, the official name became PTSD, posttraumatic stress disorder.

Listening to Stories of War answers the question:

Does the PTSD label help or hinder recovery?

Catherine Lieb


About the Book

At the heart of Listening to Stories of War, are true stories veterans told the author when she was their psychotherapist at the VA.  In addition to individual therapy, Lieb had the opportunity to serve veterans in a combat trauma group therapy program that her VA mentor developed based on many years of experience working with combat vets. 

When the VA shut this highly effective, two-year program down to implement short-term, one-size-fits-all treatments for PTSD, Lieb had two choices – deliver therapy that she did not believe would be as effective as the combat trauma program it replaced, or leave the VA.  

Since she left, two large studies have shown that one-third to a half of veterans who complete the VA’s recommended treatments for PTSD show improvement. (2020).  Which is good, but what about the other two-thirds to a half who don’t improve, or veterans who benefit initially but their recovery degrades over time?  

The message of Listening to Stories of War is there are multiple roads to recovery, don’t give up.  If the VA’s preferred options, CPT and PE, are not right for you, find a clinician who will help you find therapy that is a good match.  Skilled clinicians using an integrative approach will customize treatment to fit the needs of their patients, including knowledge about military culture and the types of psychological and moral injuries that warriors have suffered throughout human history. 

Listening is a book in progress.  Read excerpts and join the conversation as Lieb writes about the veterans she served, the bonds she made with like-minded colleagues, and the challenges she faced working in a VA mental health clinic.

I’ll never know what it’s like to go to war, but I know how to create a safe space for veterans to tell their stories about war, the friends they lost, the civilians they harmed, and the enemies they killed.

CL, LCSW, Author