Michael Brennan, Psy.D. ’12, and his classmate Andre Chaplin, Psy.D. ’11, were interested in learning how they could use their clinical psychology studies to help veterans and active duty military. As students in the Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) in Clinical Psychology program in Chicago, they wanted to get additional training on military psychology, connect with other like-minded students, and engage in volunteer opportunities with organizations serving veterans.
They met with professor and retired Navy officer Joseph E. Troiani, Ph.D., to share with him their idea of starting a military psychology student group. Brennan related that Troiani’s eyes lit up as he said, “Absolutely.”
From this conversation grew Adler University’s Military Psychology Student Organization. It also helped spark the development of the University’s current military psychology programs at the Chicago and Online campuses.
Serving in the Armed Forces
After graduating from Adler University, Brennan served five years in active duty in the U.S. Army and became the first psychologist embedded within the 3rd Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood, Texas.
While stationed at Fort Hood, he was a clinician, consultant, teacher, and administrator for more than 4,200 soldiers, 50 commanders, and 25 medical personnel. He also deployed to Afghanistan for nine months with the regiment and was responsible for the mental health care of more than 7,000 military personnel.
He is a Behavioral Health Officer in the Medical Detachment of the Wisconsin National Guard in Camp Douglas, Wisconsin, where he is responsible for mental health screening, comprehensive evaluation, and consultation for all of the soldiers in the Wisconsin Guard.
Supporting Veterans and their Families
Brennan received the Adler University Leadership and Innovation Alumni Achievement Award for the Chicago Campus on March 8, 2019, in recognition of his passion to help those who are serving or have served in the military.
“I grew up through high school, college, and grad school, with a peripheral war going on in the background,” Brennan said. “I was learning about the war, while studying psychology and the effects of trauma. It made me want to use my specialty of clinical psychology in order to help the people who serve our nation.”
Brennan is the Clinical Director of the Road Home Program: Center for Veterans and their Families at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. The Road Home Program, part of the Wounded Warrior Program’s Warrior Care Network, was founded in 2014 to provide tailored support, counseling, and mental health care services to veterans and their families.
Brennan joined the Road Home Program in 2016. He oversees the intensive outpatient program for veterans who are suffering from the effects of war, combat, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I am at the ground floor of helping transform how evidence-based treatment can be delivered in a short time and be effective,” Brennan said. “We have really saved a lot of lives.”
He was integral in the Road Home Program receiving a $45 million grant from the Wounded Warrior Project in 2018. The grant is growing the program, helping an expected 5,000 military veterans or their family members receive mental health care services without cost to them over five years.
The Road Home Program is designed to augment services that are provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). “It is a national effort, not just a VA effort, to help out,” Brennan said. “Veterans are a very deserving population of people who have sacrificed a lot and then come back. It shouldn’t just be on one organization to help them—and oftentimes it takes a multitude of different types of delivery of care to help someone.”
Taking a Family Approach
“Military service doesn’t just impact the individual service member or veteran; it affects the entire family,” Brennan said. “We recognize that and want to provide treatment to family members, as well, because they have also sacrificed.”
Brennan explained that “often the effects of military service ripple into the family system” but that there are not many resources available specifically for military family members. “Road Home is trying to recognize that gap and fill that gap, treating the entire family system, as well as other caretakers. Because when you treat the entire family system, you are not only setting them up for success, but you are also helping the veteran who is living within that family system.”
“It’s really amazing what we have been able to accomplish,” Brennan said.
Carrying on a Legacy
When Brennan attended Adler University, he not only put together the building blocks for his future career—he also met his future wife, Jessica Shulman Brennan, Psy.D. ’13. She was a fellow student as well as the granddaughter of Bernard Shulman, M.D., one of Adler University’s co-founders.
Brennan knew Shulman for 12 years before he died in 2018, and was very grateful for that time with him.
“I felt honored to be invited into the family and to learn more about the initial inception of the school, as well as about the impact that Adler University has made for students and communities throughout the years.”