This conference is approved for 7.5 continuing education credit hours for NYS licensed social workers, licensed mental health counselors, and licensed marriage and family therapists. If you are not in NYS, check with your own licensing board to see if our programs are eligible for CE credit in your state.

FREE for ALL Attendees. No Extra cost for CE credits. All Attendees Welcome.
NYSED Approved for 7.5 CE Credits for Social Workers, LMFTs, & LMHCs


Workshops and Presenters:


Keynote: Shauna ‘Doc’ Springer, PhD
What can practicing mental health social workers who treat Veterans do to build trust and overcome treatment-related stigma?  This keynote training will provide a wealth of new insights to help mental health providers support patients who are current or prior military servicemembers. Based on her unique role as a civilian psychologist who has become a deeply trusted advisor for countless veterans and first responders, Dr. Shauna ‘Doc’ Springer will provide a relational context for the commonly observed trust deficit between veterans and their mental health treatment providers, illustrate key differences between the values that underlie military training and the values that drive growth in therapy, and provide practical ways for all providers – both those with and without a military background themselves – to build the kind of trust that promotes effective outcomes in therapy.

After the completion of this keynote, participants will be able to:

  • Define stigma in a military context as it relates to mental health symptoms and the seeking of treatment for those symptoms.
  • Describe how previous experience many military personnel might have had with mental health providers may play into their perception of stigma regarding seeking treatment.
  • Describe at least 2 differences between the perceived goals of military service and supportive therapy, and discuss how these different contribute to mental health stigma.
  • Explain for the benefit of a prospective veteran patient at least 1 way in which military training and the task of healing in therapy may be similar.
  • Articulate at least 1 specific technique to help a military or veteran patient overcome barriers to seeking treatment within their cultural context.


Moderated by: Aynisa Leonardo, LCAT, ATR-BC 
Description: This panel will offer a general overview and foundation on the more explicit forms of military competence, such as branches of service, mission, culture, rank, access to benefits, type of deployment/discharge/service, and impact of service on family. The second panel will dive deeper into more nuanced or implicit topics around cultural humility, such as understanding how indoctrination into military impacts personal culture, the culture of each branch, and relationships, both in the military and interpersonally.  This panel will help to teach participants how to develop a strategy for screening and treatment, based on learned military cultural factors.

After the completion of this keynote, participants will be able to:

  • Outline 3 aspects of military culture, and how these may influence one’s identity.
  • Identify relevant terminology related to military culture and the veteran experience.
  • Demonstrate clinical skills that may aid in the screening of mental health issues in veterans.
  • Identify at least 3 trends or statistics related to veteran reintegration.


Moderated by:  Aynisa Leonardo, LCAT, ATR-B 
Description: Coming soon!

Presented by: Mary Beth DeSario, LCSW & Cat Capowski, MSW, M.Ed, LCSW-R, RYT 300 hr 
Description: Join us to learn some tools to help with reducing stress and increasing self-care by connecting with your breath to help regulate the nervous system. This experiential practice will include gentle movement and breathing based in Qi Gong as well as the opportunity for meditation.

This presentation will include:

  • A brief overview of how these practices are helpful for balancing the nervous system and benefits of doing so
  • Experiential exercises: Gentle movement based in Qi Gong with breathing techniques and meditation


Presented by: Sharon Bailey, Major, USAF, Retired, LCSW-R
Description: This workshop will focus on the life cycle of a servicemember on their journey to being a veteran. Participants will learn about the process of developing a military identity and the transition to the identity of veteran when service members separate from the service. This training will also focus on the complexities of being a veteran and provide strategies for effectively engaging with a veteran in treatment.

After the completion of this keynote, participants will be able to:

  • Identify 10 stages of the veteran’s life cycle
  • Build rapport with a veteran in a therapeutic relationship by utilizing key questions about the military experience at each stage of the lifecycle
  • Identify challenges to veterans seeking help
  • Develop a psychosocial assessment that encompasses a veteran’s life experience

This workshop is approved for 7.5 continuing education credit hours.

NASW-NYS is recognized by the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Mental Health Practitioners as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers (Provider ID #0014), licensed mental health counselors (Provider ID #MHC-0053), and licensed marriage and family therapists. (Provider ID #MFT-0037)


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Shauna ‘Doc’ Springer is a best-selling author, frequently requested keynote speaker, and one of the world’s leading experts on psychological trauma, military transition, suicide prevention, and close relationships. She is the author of Warrior: How to Support Those Who Protect Us and the co-author of Beyond the Military: A Leader’s Handbook for Warrior Reintegration. A Harvard graduate who has become a trusted Doc to our nation’s military warfighters, she navigates different cultures with exceptional agility. Doc Springer is a licensed psychologist who is frequently sourced by the media for her uniquely perceptive insights on trauma recovery, post-traumatic growth, psychological health, and interpersonal relationships, developed from two decades of work at the extremes. Doc Springer’s work has been featured in multiple media outlets, including CNN, VICE, NPR, NBC, CBS Radio, Forbes, Business Insider, Military Times, Gun Talk Radio, Coffee or Die Magazine, The Marine Corps Gazette, Havok Journal, THRIVE GLOBAL, Police1,, Washington Post, and Psychology Today.


Aynisa Leonardo is a Licensed Clinical Art Therapist (LCAT, ATR-BC), who has been in the field of addiction and mental health services for over a decade. She is the Director of Training and Education at Wellbridge Addiction Treatment and Research. She has concentrated on advanced program development and clinical education, locally and nationally, providing evidence-based and interactive presentations for the community, medical facilities, non-profits, and corporate agencies, in an effort to raise awareness on current trends, reduce the stigma associated with treatment, and improve collaboration within the healthcare community. Aynisa is proud to be part of the Business Development team at Wellbridge, in support of community outreach, education, and program development.


Mary Beth DeSario, LCSW has been a social worker at the Stratton VA for the past six years. She is the Local Recovery Coordinator there, seeking to promote access to resources for those with an SMI diagnosis, and also provides couples therapy and offers couples retreats. She holds certification in Trauma Focused CBT, CBT for Depression, and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. Mary Beth has a passion for integrative medicine; she is certified in Reiki as a level 2 practitioner, has been co-facilitating groups teaching coherence breathing practices to veterans and staff, developed and implemented drop in DBT and Wellness Self-Management groups, and participates in her own avid daily yoga and meditation practice.

Cat Capowski, MSW, M.Ed, LCSW-R (RYT 300 hr.) has been working at the Stratton VA Medical Center for 8 years. She is the Coordinator of the Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program and also provides couples therapy and groups for couples and their partners. Cat is a yoga practitioner and teacher and created the trauma informed yoga program at the VA 7 years ago. This program provides yoga, meditation and mindfulness for veterans dealing with PTSD, addiction as well as chronic pain. Cat has been co-leading mindfulness and breathing groups including Qi Gong at the VA for the past several years and finds it helps to keep her grounded and joyful as well. Cat teaches yoga for 12 step recovery (y12SR) in the community for people impacted by addiction and also teaches yin yoga and slow vinyasa flow classes.

Sharon Bailey, Major, USAF, Retired, LCSW-R

Sharon Bailey, MAJ, USAF, Ret started her career in the military as a Combat Medic in the Army. After her enlistment, she entered the Air Force Reserves as a Flight Medic, while she completed her Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Social Work. She was a commissioned officer in the Air Force and Retired in 2007. Sharon is a LCSW in Texas for over 30 years. She is trained as a Critical Incident Debriefer for children and adults. She worked as a Military Social Worker, private practitioner, consultant, educator and academic counselor, Military Life Family Counselor, clinician for the Department of Defense and Veteran Affairs. Sharon is currently the Veteran Outreach Administrator for the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Vet to Vet Program at BRIDGES in Rockland County and Clinical Supervisor for the Intellectually and Developmentally Disabled Alternative to Incarceration Program.

Sharon has been married 39 years; she has three sons and three granddaughters.


The VMHTI advisory committee comprised of veteran experts, representatives from veterans service programs, relevant federal, state and local agencies as well as current and retired members of the military, military family members and other stakeholder organizations in collaboration with Chapter staff. The advisory committee oversees all programming and curriculum development of the VMHTI.

Sharon Bailey, Major, USAF, Retired, LCSW-R

Sharon Bailey, MAJ, USAF, Ret started her career in the military as a Combat Medic in the Army. After her enlistment, she entered the Air Force Reserves as a Flight Medic, while she completed her Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Social Work. She was a commissioned officer in the Air Force and Retired in 2007. Sharon is a LCSW in Texas for over 30 years. She is trained as a Critical Incident Debriefer for children and adults. She worked as a Military Social Worker, private practitioner, consultant, educator and academic counselor, Military Life Family Counselor, clinician for the Department of Defense and Veteran Affairs. Sharon is currently the Veteran Outreach Administrator for the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Vet to Vet Program at BRIDGES in Rockland County and Clinical Supervisor for the Intellectually and Developmentally Disabled Alternative to Incarceration Program.

Sharon has been married 39 years; she has three sons and three granddaughters.


John Bourges BSN, Captain Army Reserves 2006 – 2014

John Bourges worked as a Registered Nurse from 2003 to 2018 in the Intensive Care Unit and Emergency Department settings, earning a BSN, CCRN and CEN, as well having been an ACLS & BLS Instructor. John was deployed to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) as an Officer, serving both as an ER and ICU nurse in a combat area of operations. He has twenty years’ experience with the New York City Police Department including Patrol, the Narcotics Division and the Detective Bureau. John also trained in Personal/Dignitary protection. He is the Program Coordinator for The Dwyer Veterans Outreach Program in Putnam County and was elected a County Coroner in 2015/18. John is on the Board of Directors of the Prevention Council of Putnam; formally NCADD; and a member of the Putnam County Suicide Prevention Task Force.


Venecia DeRoose, M.S., MSW Candidate, Navy Veteran

I am a Navy veteran who served 7 years on active duty. I served on the Harry S Truman CVN-75 for 3 years. I then served at Naval Station Oceana, Virginia Beach for 4 years. I enjoyed being in the military. My first duty station was the Harry S. Truman, an aircraft carrier and I worked as an Aviation Support Equipment Technician. I chose this job because I wanted to do something challenging and new. I was deployed to Afghanistan and completed my last tour at NAS Oceana. In 2013, I decided to separate from the service because I knew it was time. It was a bit intimating to venture into the civilian world with a lot of unknowns. Thankfully the employers I encountered welcomed my military experience. A couple years later I decided to make myself even more marketable by applying to a master’s program. In 2015, I completed that masters’ program in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. In 2019, I made the decision to return to college and I am currently working on my Masters in Social Work because I want to be able to help my fellow veterans in need.


Alyssa Gibbons, LCSW-R, BCD, LCDR, US Navy Medical Service Corps 2009-2016

Alyssa Gibbons, LCSW-R, BCD graduated from UNC Charlotte with her MSW in 2003 and has been in clinical practice since June 2003. She has worked with a variety of populations, mainly adults in various stages of recovery from MH/SUD issues. She served 6 years as an active duty Navy Medical Service Corps Officer from 2009 – 2016 as a social worker. She currently works for the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center in outpatient substance abuse and has a passion for spirituality as a recovery focus.


Mary Jo Gibson, LCSW, Retired Military Spouse

Mary Jo Gibson is a licensed clinical social worker and completed coursework as an addiction specialist. She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from Catholic University and her Masters of Social Work from Adelphi University. Mary Jo previously served as a social worker at both Bronx Municipal Hospital and Catholic Charities Mental Health Clinic in Woodside Queens, in addition to leading workshops on general wellness and healthy eating. Mary Jo also has significant experience leading military family readiness groups during the the time her husband served as an officer in the US Army. During that time period, her volunteer responsibilities included facilitating communications between the deployed Soldiers and families, providing resources to families in need, visiting and supporting wounded warriors, coordinating training programs, and mentoring family readiness advisers. Mary Jo is currently employed as a social worker with the Behavioral Health Interdisciplinary Program at the Albany Veterans Administration hospital, and is an adjunct professor at SUNY Empire State College, where she currently teaches courses in “Crisis Intervention” and previously taught “Grief and Loss.” Mary Jo is a founding co-chair of the U.S. Congressional Spouses Group on Suicide Prevention and Education, on which she served during the time her husband Chris Gibson served in the U.S. House of Representatives following his retirement from the Army. She continues to support local chapters of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Mary Jo lives in Kinderhook, NY, with her husband. They have three adult children.


Lorraine Greenwell, LMSW, MPH

Lorraine Greenwell is the Deputy Executive Director at BRIDGES, a peer-driven, cross-disability service and advocacy organization. Lorraine oversees the Rockland County PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer Support Program and has a Postgraduate Certificate in Military Trauma from Adelphi University School of Social Work.



Charles Greco M.A., CSW-R, BCD, US Army 1968-71 Vietnam 1969

A Brooklyn native, Charles Greco served in the Army from 1968 to 1971 in an artillery battery. Charles first started college after his service ended, and received 2 degrees from CW Post College (LIU), then attended LIU Brooklyn and earned a MA in Psychology through the GI Bill. Charles has been in private practice for over 30 years, and has seen veterans in therapy for 25 years since being awarded a contract from the VA in Eastern Long Island because of the long distance to the VA hospital in Northport. Charles has also been a member of the NASW Ethics Committee for over 25 years, and the Chair of the mentorship committee for NYSSCSW. Charles is an avid reader of biographies and is also Scuba diver. I have been involved in Volunteer work through United way of LI and worked in schools and clinics. Charles resides in Eastport, NY.


Ward Halverson, LCSW-R, M.Ed., US Army 2000 – 2008

A former public school teacher, army officer, and father of four, Ward V. Halverson grew up in Mercer Island, Washington, attended Hamilton College in Upstate New York, and settled in Dolgeville. He is a graduate of The College of Saint Rose School of Education and Syracuse University’s School of Social Work. Halverson opened an outpatient mental health private practice in 2007 after a varied decade working with children, families, parents, couples, soldiers, and teenagers. The practice employed 8 therapists and admin staff and is home of SimpleThree, a treatment approach designed to end childhood defiance in about a week. From November of 2004 until March of 2006, as an army reservist, Captain Halverson was activated for training and deployed to Afghanistan as the country’s director of mental health for detainee operations. His team created a psychiatric system for captured Taliban and Afghan, provided for their several hundred MP guards, and supported combat presence patrols and humanitarian missions throughout the country. Upon returning home, Halverson began work with fellow combat vets through the Syracuse Vet Center as an outpatient contractor, and led the Veterans Expo committee as an annual opportunity to connect veterans in need with those most qualified to help. As founder and director of rapidly-growing Cornerstone Mobile Counseling and, he has been connecting individuals and families in need across 9 regions of New York State with 120-some masters-level licensed providers to attack generational patterns of poverty.


Audrey Lewis, PFC Dwyer Peer Support Project, Army Veteran

Bio coming soon!




Amanda Matteson, NYS Army National Guard, OIIF Veteran, MSW

Amanda Matteson, MSW, is a doctoral student in the School of Social Welfare at the University at Albany. Amanda served in the New York Army National Guard from 2005-2011 and deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) from 2008-2009. She earned a Bachelor’s in Psychology in 2011 and worked at the Albany VA Medical Center for four years before returning to academia. Currently she works as the Program Coordinator on the New York State Senate sponsored evaluation of the PFC Dwyer Peer-to-Peer Veterans Program and has been a member of this research team since 2014.


Anthony Rabasca, LT.Col., USAF, Retired, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Lieutenant Colonel Rabasca retired from the United States Air Force after 20 years of service. He is graduate of four military institutes including: Squadron Officers School, Air Command and Staff College, Armed Forces Staff College and the Air War College. His military experience was divided between two Air Force specialties: For eleven years he served in North American Air Defense (NORAD) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). He was chosen to attend the Defense Race Relations Institute(DRRI) from which he graduated in 1972. For eight years of his career he served as Social Actions Specialist. The Social Actions mission focused on Equal Opportunity and Treatment, Drug/Alcohol Abuse and Rehabilitation, and Race Relations. His duties included conducting group sensitivity training that focused on race relations and sexism in the Air Force. From 1976-1980 he served as an instructor at the Department of Defense Race Relations Institute(DRRI) where he was in charge of curriculum development of subjects that included racism and sexism in the military. In 1978 he earned a Masters Degree in Human Relations from Oklahoma University. From 1980 to 1983 he served as Deputy Commander of the ROTC Detachment at Rutgers University. His last Air Force assignment was as Director of Training at the NORAD Operations Center located at Griffiss Air Force Base, Rome, NY. After retirement in 1988 earned a clinical degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Syracuse University. He was President of the New York State Association for Marriage and Family Therapists (NYAMFT) from 1999-2002. In December of 2001he served at the World Trade Center, ground zero, as a Red Cross Mental Health Specialist. In 2013 he retired after 25 years in private practice as an LMFT. He has been a member of the VMHTI Advisory and Curriculum Development Committees since 2016. He is currently working as a consultant to the Sitrin Outpatient Military Rehabilitation Clinical Development Program, New Hartford, NY and is a sponsor and participant in Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing in Twin Bridges, Montana. He resides in Rome, NY with his wife, Jane.

Karl Rohde, Army Combat Vietnam Veteran, Silver Star Recipient

Karl Rohde, Army, Combat Vietnam Veteran is presently Director of Veterans Services for Putnam County.  He is certified by the VA as a Veterans Service Officer (VSO). In that capacity he assists Veterans in filing claims for compensation with the VA.   Karl has been involved with Veterans issues on some level since 1989.  He a Past State Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and is the founder of the Putnam County Joint Veterans Council that brings the various Veterans organizations of Putnam County together to work as a team for Veterans.  Since the funding of Dwyer Vet2Vet passes through his office he been a part of the team and strong advocate of Dwyer. He is a horse handler in the Equus Effect Horse Therapy for Veterans.   He sits on the Putnam County Suicide Prevention Task Force.  Karl has 2 master’s degrees one in history and one in education.

Brent Russell, LMSW, Army Veteran

Bio coming soon!




Michael Shurmatz, LMSW, U.S. Army

Michael Shurmatz currently works as Outpatient Behavioral Health Senior Counselor at BestSelf Behavioral Health, specializing in EMDR, DBT, CPT, and ACT interventions, with a focus on trauma, 2019 – Present. Mike has also been providing specialized training in Moral Injury and is currently learning to implement various forms of trauma treatment which directly target Moral Injury. Mike graduated from the UB School of Social Work, Master of Social Work in May 2019. Prior to going back to graduate school, Mike was the manager for the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Program at the Veterans One-Stop Center of WNY from 2015 – 2017. Mike served in the U.S. Army, as a Commissioned Logistics Officer from 2007 – 2011, serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2009-2010. Mike graduated from Canisius College with a BA in Communications in May 2007. Mike currently resides in WNY with his wife and two children.


Michael Varmette, Lt.Col. USMC, Retired, MSW, MSSM

Lieutenant Colonel Varmette, USMC (Ret) hails originally from upstate New York. He applied and was accepted into the State University of New York at Albany where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree. During his time at SUNY he joined the Marine Corps in 1982 under the Platoon Leaders Commissioning Program. He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in May 1984 and July 1984 attended The Basic School, Fox Company. At the Basic School he was assigned as an Infantry Officer and upon graduation attended the Infantry Officers Course. His first assignment was to Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, where he was a Platoon Commander, Weapons Platoon Commander, and Executive Officer to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines. After this tour Lieutenant Varmette was assigned to the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Center in Bridgeport California. He held various billets of Mountain Leader, Unit Operation, and Chief Instructor. He was promoted to Captain and attended Amphibious Warfare School. Completing the mid-level career school, he was assigned to Hawaii as a Company Commander, Weapons Company Commander for 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines. He was promoted to Major and was reassigned as the Plans Officer for III Marine Expeditionary Forces, Hawaii. Major Varmette was assigned in 1996 to Marine Corps Systems Command as a Project Officer for Individual Weapons. Finishing that tour, he attended Marine Corps’ Command and Staff College and obtain a Master of Science in Systems Management from Capitol College. He received orders to Headquarters Marine Corps, Manpower and Reserve Affairs. As Division Head for Distribution of Manpower Management Officer Affairs he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. In 2002, Lieutenant Colonel was assigned as a Professor of Program Management and Leadership at the Defense Acquisition University. While there he was assigned to the Office of Military Cooperation Afghanistan as a military consultant. He retired out of Headquarters Battalion in Quantico, 1 July 2006. Lieutenant Colonel Varmette served on Unit Deployments to Okinawa, deployments with Marine Expeditionary Unit Special Operations Capable to the Mediterranean, including Somalia and Afghanistan. Retired Lieutenant Colonel Varmette was a program manager and consultant for Intelligence Systems from 2006 to 2016. He recently completed his second graduate degree from the Graduate School of Social Welfare, University at Albany in May 2020. He resides in Lake Luzerne New York.



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The Veterans Mental Health Training Initiative (VMHTI) is a multi-year comprehensive training project developed by the National Association of Social Workers – New York State Chapter (NASW-NYS), aimed at increasing the number of community health and mental health professionals clinically trained in the assessment and treatment of mental health issues specific to veterans and their families. VMHTI is supported by a grant from the New York State Legislature as part of its efforts to address the unmet mental health needs of returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and their families. NASW-NYS developed the Veterans Mental Health Training Initiative to educate and train community health and primary care providers on veteran-specific mental health issues, including among others post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, suicide, suicide prevention, and substance use disorders. The goal of the VMHTI is to (further) build the capacity of New York’s community mental health workforce to better serve our returning veterans and their families through the delivery of free veterans mental health conferences and other related programming.


In July 2020, NASW-NYS announced the launch of the One Team VMHTI Listserv. One Team is a resource for clinical providers and students to engage with a network of peers to connect, to discuss, share knowledge, information, and professional resources focused on work with military service members, veterans, and their families. This platform provides an opportunity for members to:

Share Information on best practice and relevant issues regarding:

      • -Clinical practice with Military/Veterans (and their families)
      • -Serve as a source for referrals
      • -Increasing cultural competence
      • -Share relevant community resources
      • -Serve as a conduit to promote communications among practitioners, either actively working with a Military/Veteran population or those who wish to increase their cultural competence with this population and to identify emerging needs with the NASW-NYS Advocacy and Government Relations (AGR) Committee as they identify annual legislative priorities
      • -Explore bi-weekly/monthly topics as identified by Listserv Moderator and/or Veteran Advisory Committee Member

To join, complete the One Team submission form by clicking here. You will receive an email to the email you submitted confirming that you have been added to the One Team Listserv within 2 business days.




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