In March, Army Capt. Dayami Liebenguth returned from her 12-month deployment to Iraq, where she was the officer in charge of the combat stress control behavioral health clinic for an entire forward operating base. Liebenguth is now a clinical psychologist consultant at Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE).
The number one thing Capt. Dayami Liebenguth gained from her recent deployment was respect for her fellow service members.
“Overall, what I learned was how to be an advocate for our service members, while at the same time meeting the needs of the units—a challenge I was always up for,” she said. “It is in my opinion that service members are generally resilient and just need to be encouraged, supported and reminded of their resilience.”
Liebenguth, who completed her postdoctoral training at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, was attached to the 85th combat stress control medical detachment from Fort Hood, Texas. While deployed, she incorporated group classes as an effective tactic in maintaining resilience.
“Most of the service member training I did in theater included classes on anger and stress management, sleep hygiene, coping skills and relationship sessions, interpersonal difficulties and problem resolution among peers,” she said. “The most frequent psychological health concerns while deployed revolved around home-front issues and duty-related stressors.”
While teaching service members to cope with psychological concerns, Liebenguth encouraged a proactive approach to treatment.
“When addressing resiliency issues, I always emphasized the importance of learning from life experiences, be it during deployment or from naturally occurring events in life,” she said. “They were frequently challenged with identifying what I called ’take-home points’ on what they may have learned, such as identifying themes, patterns of behaviors they frequently engaged in and identifying likes and dislikes from those experiences. This generally fostered the positive mindset generally seen in resilient individuals and prepared them for future challenges.”
To keep herself psychologically resilient while taking care of service members, Liebenguth relied on the support of her combat stress control team, which consisted of social workers and mental health providers.
“I frequently overextended myself and worked long hours. However, this was mitigated by having a strong team, good friends to speak with who were also deployed and a strong family unit back home,” she said. “My team was fantastic and we looked out for each other. One of the first things I did with my team was integrating daily physical fitness and weekly activities to maintain good morale.”
She also made sure to take time for herself. She used self-care activities to help provide a break from her daily responsibilities, such as quilting, watching television, reading and staying in contact with family and friends.
“There were times when I was mentally exhausted from long days and multiple responsibilities… it’s mentally challenging at times out there, especially when you are spread out very thin,” Liebenguth said.
With her arrival at DCoE, Liebenguth looks forward to using her deployment experience to support the psychological health of the military community.
“I hope that my experience as a recently deployed psychologist helps provide an additional perspective to recent behavioral health trends and the applicability of guidance for deployed behavioral health care providers,” she said.
DCoE and its component centers have a variety of resources for deployed providers; check out a few below:
- DCoE: For Health Professionals
- National Center for Telehealth and Technology: Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Pocket Guide Mobile App
- Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress: Stress Management for Health Care Providers
- Deployment Health Clinical Center: Provider Resiliency