Next phase for Bowe Bergdahl in Texas: Helping psychological wounds heal

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's transfer to Brooke Army Military Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, marks the beginning of the next stage of his reintegration process after five years of captivity.

At Brooke, Bergdahl will continue to receive medical care and psychological support and is expected to be reunited with his family, according to Army South, which plans and leads all reintegration efforts throughout the military. "Families play a critical role in assisting the returnee in gaining control and predictability over their circumstances," it said in a statement.

Army South describes reintegration as a "time proven process that when successfully executed provides recovered personnel with the necessary tools to effectively resume normal, stable, professional, family and community activities, with minimal physical and emotional complications."

Officials say the process has no predetermined length and depends on the needs of each individual returnee.

The unit has reintegrated six other military personnel since 2007, including three Department of Defense contractors held for five and a half years in Colombia and rescued in Operation Jaque in 2008.

Throughout the duration of his stay at Brooke, Bergdahl will be monitored by SERE psychologists, who have been through advanced Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) training. A SERE psychologist usually trains at a camp that simulates various scenarios faced by combat fighters and other military personnel. Many also have been service members themselves.

Joseph Troiani, associate professor of clinical psychology and founder of the military psychology program at the Adler School of Professional Psychology, told CBS News that in order for mental health professionals to provide Bergdahl with the best care, they'll need to learn more information about how he was living during the time he was held captive. A SERE psychologist is specially trained to understand the impact Bergdahl's experience may have had on him psychologically.

"The first question is what level of treatment was afforded to him," Troiani said. "Was it extreme or harsh?"

Bergdahl reportedly told military officials he was tortured, beaten and held in a cage by his Taliban captors in Afghanistan after he tried to escape.

Arrival at Brooke begins the third phase of Bergdahl's reintegration. The first phase was his initial recovery and triage in Afghanistan. He completed the second phase at the U.S. military's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, which officials say focused on providing medical care as well as a "decompression period."

In 2004, Lt. Col. Debra Dunivin, professor and deputy chief and director of residency training at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and a trained SERE psychologist, told the Monitor on Psychology, a magazine from the American Psychological Association, that the same team of SERE psychologists typically travel from the sites of phase two to phase three to help a POW "understand the psychological reactions to such events, helps them through the process of returning to the states or to duty, and stays with them through any necessary medical care."

As part of the process, Bergdahl will also take part in debriefings to help the military gather intelligence and develop training based on lessons learned.

Reintegration helps the military formulate better programs to psychologically prepare war fighters for combat and further develop the SERE training program. All service members are required to receive SERE 100 Code of Conduct -- or basic training -- prior to deployment, U.S. Army South public affairs officer Arwen Consaul told CBS News. Bergdahl most likely went through some SERE training before his own deployment.

According to a tip sheet from Joint Knowledge Online, the Department of Defense's online training portal, the newest SERE course uses gaming technology and several scenarios and includes instructional videos to help servicemen and women develop better survival skills.

"The course includes personal interviews with former Vietnam, Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom Prisoners of War (POW), putting the course in a 'yes, it can happen to me' perspective. Students are guided through the correct tactics, techniques, and procedures for outdoor survival and evasion, captivity resistance, captivity resolution through escape, and personnel recovery, ultimately preparing military members to return with honor, regardless of circumstance of isolation," it says.

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