clearinghouse ( www.giveanhour.org). The providers include
psychiatrists, psychologists, grief and substance abuse
counselors and social workers. They offer expertise on
everything from treating post-traumatic stress disorder and
traumatic brain injury to school anxiety.
Van Dahlen and her staff of 17 prepare all volunteers on the
ins and outs of military culture. “The military looks like us, but
they are a unique culture with defined values, and they often
speak a very different language,” says Van Dahlen.
Volunteers don’t always fulfill their service in a therapy
room. Van Dahlen often fields calls from news shows, local
groups or community agencies seeking experts who can talk
about military mental health.
“It’s giving mental health professionals a wonderful
opportunity to share what they know and help educate the
larger community about our profession,” Van Dahlen says.
Sometimes she hands such speaker requests over to military
or family members who have tapped Give an Hour’s services
and want to share their story to help others. In fact, adding a
volunteer component for the military is one of Van Dahlen’s
favorite aspects of the organization, and one that she credits
to her father, who served in World War
II and taught her that giving back is a
critical part of life.
Further expanding her reach, Van
Dahlen is also on the advisory council
of the Community Blueprint Network, a
multiagency effort to strengthen services
for the military in local communities.
The Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation
presented Give an Hour with a $2 million
grant to help carry out the network’s
efforts in two demonstration sites:
Norfolk, Va., and Fayetteville, N.C. That
program is creating powerful partnerships
in these communities, largely due to Van
Dahlen’s flair for encouraging diverse
groups to join forces, says Sherri Brown,
the Red Cross’s senior vice president of
service to the armed forces, who also
serves on the council.
“There are people who collaborate
because it’s needed and people who do it
because that’s what they do,” says Brown.
“Barbara sees the beauty and benefit in all
collaborations. That’s how she’s wired.”
Along those lines, Van Dahlen is also
expanding Give an Hour through social
media. This spring, the network’s website
JUNE 2012 • MONITOR ON PSYCHOLOGY
added Give an Hour Connected ( http://connected.giveanhour.
org), a forum through which volunteers can share strategies for
working with the military community. The website also offers a
separate forum that links people who have used Give an Hour’s
While Give an Hour already works closely with dozens of
military groups, including the USO and Blue Star Families, Van
Dahlen hopes the Time publicity will help her draw more groups
that can connect her volunteers with service members in need.
This spring, Give an Hour reached an agreement with the U.S.
Department of Veterans Affairs to distribute information about
its services through its centers and field referrals from its Veterans
“I tend to think big,” says Van Dahlen. “Sometimes
situations require bold thoughts and actions — otherwise,
Video: Watch a Time magazine video about
Van Dahlen’s work. Click here for a transcript
of the video.