Veterans Care: Operational Stress Injury Clinic - What To Expect

Why is it important to be diagnosed? 

After being exposed to a traumatic experience, the majority of people will be distressed. They may need help coping after the event. Some people exposed to trauma will have persistent problems that require professional help. A formal assessment and diagnosis of an OSI is necessary and important to ensure the best treatment. 

How can the OSI Clinic help you? 

Our clinic can assess your needs, and  provide a diagnosis and treatment options. To find out if you are eligible for services at the OSI Clinic please contact:

  • Veterans and their families can contact VAC at 1-866-522-2122 or speak directly with their VAC Case Manager to obtain a referral.
  • Still-serving Canadian Forces members can contact their Base Medical Officer.
  • RCMP personnel can contact the Health Services Office for a referral to the OSI Clinic.

What to expect

When an eligible client is referred to the OSI Clinic, they are given:

  • A thorough assessment and review of prior treatment to determine their care needs
  • Treatment and follow-up as needed
  • Comprehensive and compassionate care

Treatment approach

At St. Joseph’s OSI Clinic, we treat operational stress injuries through individual therapy, group therapy, medication, couples and/or family counseling, and education. Treatment methods are based on the latest scientific knowledge in military mental health and tailored to meet the needs of each individual. In partnership with the care team, clients set goals for their treatment and recovery.

Individual therapy

Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE): PE uses strategies to approach trauma memories and trauma-related situations to directly target PTSD and associated difficulties.

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT): CPT focuses on interventions to identify, challenge, and modify how a person’s thoughts, beliefs and emotions may have changed following traumatic experience.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR combines the use of eye movements with talking about the traumatic experiences to help process the trauma, until the memory no longer produces high levels of emotional distress.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): CBT is used to treat depression, anxiety, life stress, chronic pain and other areas of difficulty. CBT focuses on exploring and modifying the relationship between emotions, thoughts and behaviours.

Pharmacotherapy (Medication) therapy: Medications can be used to treat PTSD, depression and anxiety. Antidepressants are commonly used to treat these conditions. Other medications can also decrease the severity and frequency of traumatic nightmares. A psychiatrist will consult with clients on the best medication for their treatment goals.

Trauma based exposure therapy: St. Joseph’s OSI Clinic has a state-of-the-art virtual reality suite. Virtual reality is used in the treatment of various operational stress injuries (OSIs). It provides clients a way to re-live traumatic events in a safe environment under the guidance of a trained professional. 

Group therapy

Clients and their family members can also choose to participate in various forms of group therapy at St. Joseph’s OSI Clinic. 

Educational Groups provide participants with the opportunity to learn more about the nature and symptoms of OSIs, their treatment options and coping strategies, as well as available supports and resources. This information helps to build a strong foundation for interventions and recovery as a whole. Educational groups are time-limited (1-8 sessions) and typically offered as interactive, informational sessions open to a variety of participants. Periodically, educational groups are offered to clients’ family members. 

Treatment Groups are for individuals who wish to learn about their personal patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving, to make positive changes and to further develop their skills. These groups are offered for 8-12 sessions and have the same group members each week. Each group focuses on issues commonly encountered by clients, including depression, living with pain, coping with intense emotions and substance misuse. 

MySelf Group was designed to support veterans in their transition to civilian life. Clients enroll in this group after they have completed trauma therapy. The group meets over 12 weeks and focuses on enhancing their knowledge of recreational activities and motivation to participate. After the 12 week program, participants can join to further develop their skills, comfort and knowledge in a particular form of recreation with support for four months. Participation in the MySelf group reduces depression, anxiety and PTSD symptoms and improves clients’ ratings of their quality of life. This program is the first of its kind in Canada.

Finding your identity after leaving the service

Treatment at the clinic focuses not only on addressing conditions/symptoms but also acknowledges the deep impact that military service has. As you prepare to transition to civilian life, the clinic can help you to identify what values are important to you, who you want to be, and the kind of life you want to live.

Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS)

The OSISS program is a partnership program, funded jointly by the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada. OSISS Peer Coordinators are former or still-serving members of the Canadian Forces who have both military experience and an understanding of OSIs and related conditions. They often provide peer support while also helping others re-establish social connections and to seek professional assistance, as needed.

Contact OSISS - Phone: 1-800-883-6094

Information for Family Members

Involving family members throughout a client’s journey is important to the recovery from an operational stress injury. With permission from the client, family members are included as partners in treatment and are often the main support to their loved one. 

Family members are also provided with screening, assessment and treatment if they have received a referral for services from Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC). Contact your VAC Case Manager for more information.  

Education: Family members receive information about OSIs and signs and symptoms of PTSD to better understand and develop coping strategies. 

Individual therapy for family members: Family members may be provided with individual therapy focused on a variety of concerns including depression, anxiety, addictions, relationship stress, anger and parenting. 

Couples therapy: Couples therapy explores the roots of conflict, identifies relationship patterns and builds on existing strengths within the relationship. 

Children: Children and adolescents are provided with education about OSIs and the impacts they have on family life. 

Referrals to a clinician in your home community may also be an option depending on your treatment needs. 

Watch a video of a family member of an OSI Clinic client as she shares her story (YouTube).