The 100th Air Refueling Wing now has its own embedded mental health professional available to provide support and a listening ear to Airmen, civilians and adult dependents under a limited scope practice.
Dr. Karen Kuemerle-Pinillos, known as “Dr. K-P”, is a licensed clinical social worker who is an Air Force veteran and has 20 years experience which is much-needed to support RAF Mildenhall members.
“As a therapist, I value the therapeutic relationship greatly. My main goal is to connect with people’s humanity and offer the support they need to the best of my ability.”
Team Mildenhall has only ever had limited mental health support through the military family life counsellors, therapists who work out of the Airman and Family Readiness Center, who are usually embedded within a group or squadron.
She is here specifically to serve the 100th ARW. Anyone from the 352nd Special Operations Wing looking for assistance won’t be sent away, however, because of the amount of resources already available to them, the clinical social worker said she will highly encourage them to use those.
The “BRIEF Program” provides Behavioral solutions Refined by Identified problems for Emotional health and Focused goals and helps clients cope with issues including stress, anger management, relationship issues and sleep concerns. As the BRIEF therapist, Dr. K-P also offers support to the RAF Mildenhall community in multiple ways including training, classes and attending commanders’ calls.
Dr. K-P explained that BRIEF therapy is important because she can be the first-line mental health provider if people want to be connected to higher level treatment or they don’t know where to start.
“For some people it will be an immediate referral to mental health if there is a safety concern; for others, I’ll let them know to come over and talk to me and we’ll figure it out,” she said. “It’s the very first time the wing has a permanent mental health provider at its disposal. My title also reflects my limitations; besides ‘BRIEF’ being an acronym, it’s also brief because it’s short-term. For those who need long-term help because of a major condition such as post-traumatic stress disorder, it would not be ethical for me to see those people in this environment first, as I wouldn’t have enough time with them.”
Air Force guidelines state that those with more serious conditions need to be seen at a medical treatment facility as they require long-term care.
“For those who call us wanting help, my assistant, Staff Sgt. Abdul Sadiq, is trained to ask specific questions and will guide them. Our volunteer, Jenny Robinson, also gives a lot of her time to help us. So even if I can’t serve you, I can guide you through the process of being seen by the 48th Medical Group. I can help educated and connect you, help you make phone calls and guide you,” Dr. K-P remarked.
Sadiq, 100th Security Forces Squadron, is currently working as Square D Character, Culture and Community administrative support, and is the first person clients interact with when they call or stop by the DC3.
“We respect the privacy of everyone that comes to see us, and I take that responsibility very seriously,” said Sadiq.
Dr. K-P explained that the aim of the BRIEF Therapy Program is contributing to normalizing and changing culture.
“When you have a commander saying, ‘I’m going to hire a therapist who has an open door and you can talk to her,’ what you’re really doing is changing culture,” she said. “By changing culture and normalizing help, you’re directly impacting the mission because people are more likely to open up and become healthier in order to do their job.”
The program is free and available to 100th ARW Airmen, civilians and dependents over 18. If a waiting list builds up, priority will go to military members, however, everyone will still be taken care of as quickly as possible.
“Oftentimes people don’t realize the resources available to them, my hope with this article is that people can make informed decisions about their wellbeing,” said Dr. K-P.
She added that research shows of those attending BRIEF therapy, 85% show a benefit after four to five sessions, although this can vary based on the clients’ needs and how frequent the sessions are. Sessions usually last 50 minutes and hours of operation are Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. People are encouraged to call and schedule appointments, however, walk-ins at the DC3 to check for availability are permitted.
“This is a culture change and a new way to see therapy in a way that is very proactive and not reactive,” she said. “I want people to look at their symptoms and not wait until their first sergeant is involved, or until they get a DUI or paperwork. I want them to see this as a resource in which once someone sees warning signs, they know that they have someone to talk to.”