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VISN 5 MIRECC Matters Fall 2021 - Director's Corner


MIRECC Matters: A publication of the VISN 5 MIRECC. Putting Recovery into Practice

Director's Corner: Peer Specialist Facilitated Groups for Women Veterans

Richard Goldberg, Ph.D.
Director, VISN5 MIRECC


Richard Goldberg, Ph.D.

Women currently represent the fastest growing sub-group of Veterans within the VHA, tripling over the last 15 years1; over 800,000 women Veterans are enrolled in VHA care and 30% of VHA users are women.  With VHA’s increasing emphasis on improving access to and quality of care for women Veterans, the VISN 5 MIRECC has responded by engaging in a number of research, clinical and educational projects aimed at understanding and addressing the needs of women Veterans more generally, and those with serious mental illnesses (SMI) more specifically.

As part of our growing commitment in this area, we were delighted to accept the offer to lead an evaluation of a new pilot implementation of WoVeN in VA. WoVeN in VA is an adaptation of WoVeN (Women Veterans Network), developed by researchers at the National Center for PTSD for use in non-VA community settings (WoVeN I Women Veterans Network I ( A key component of WoVeN is women Veteran-led support groups, designed to bring women Veterans of different ages, military branches and service eras together to share their experiences in a supportive environment and to foster connections and build relationships.

In response to a recent Congressional mandate, this year OMHSP’s Women’s Mental Health and Peer Support Services, in partnership with WoVeN creators at the National Center for PTSD, set out to adapt the WoVeN program for use in VA and pilot WoVeN in VA in 5 sites across VHA. Like the original WoVeN model, WoVeN in VA support groups are designed to enhance wellness, quality of life, family relationships and career satisfaction by building strong connections among women Veterans. Groups are implemented in 8 sessions and each session is structured around a specific theme, such as life transitions, balance, stress relief, connections, trust and esteem. WoVeN in VA differs from the original WoVeN model in important ways. Most notably, WoVeN in VA support groups are led by women VA peer specialists (rather than community volunteers) and offered as a component of a woman’s VA mental health treatment plan. 

The evaluation of this effort is being conducted by a team of MIRECC staff led by Dr. Amy Drapalski, Director of the VISN 5 MIRECC’s Clinical Core. Specifically, we are focusing on the implementation of the WoVeN in VA pilot program and the impact it has on women Veterans receiving care in VHA. Starting with an evaluation of the 2-day WoVeN in VA training made available to 10 women VA peer specialists, we are also examining the effects of expert consultation being made available to support the implementation of the WoVeN in VA program. We are also exploring the impact that WoVeN in VA has on the women Veterans attending the groups. Across each of these foci, we are using a variety of methods to collect information/feedback to help us best understand how to implement the program more broadly in VHA.

Findings from our evaluation will be used to inform future efforts and opportunities to train the growing workforce of women peer specialists across VHA in the delivery of the WoVeN in VA program. Stay tuned for updates.


  1. Frayne SM, Phibbs CS, Saechao F, Friedman SA, Shaw JG, Romodan Y, Berg E, Lee J, Ananth L, Iqbal S, Hayes PM, Haskell S. Sourcebook: Women Veterans in the Veterans Health Administration. Volume 4: Longitudinal Trends in Sociodemographics, Utilization, Health Profile, and Geographic Distribution. Women’s Health Evaluation Initiative, Women’s Health Services, Veterans Health Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington DC. February 2018

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