United States Military BOS Online Pilot Program

BOS is a resiliency-focused program that bases its foundation on principles from Stoic philosophy. The program was developed in Canada in 2018 to help empower public safety employees to take charge of their mental health. The program uniquely combines theoretical and experiential learning procedures to mitigate the effects of operational stress. After four years of pan-Canadian dissemination, including empirical support from the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment(CIPSRT),  we have the opportunity to customize the program for the United States Military. 

We are currently accepting applications for current and veteran US service members to review our BOS Online program and participate in focus groups, as a part of this initiative. 

Submit your application below. 

Pilot Participation Commitment and Compensation

  • You will be asked to participate in our BOS Online Program by reviewing two modules per week for a total of four weeks. This portion of the pilot is asynchronous through an online learning platform. 
  • Following your review of the online modules, you will be asked to participate in an online meeting forum with Dr. Megan McElheran and nine other participants to provide your feedback in a focus group format. Each focus session will last two hours. 
  • Total time commitment is 16 hours from December 1, 2022 to January 15, 2023, pursuant to registration.  
  • Compensation provided at the end of the pilot program will be 800/USD per participant.  

BOS Program Outline

The first module is designed to define operational stress, operational stress injuries, compassion fatigue, moral injury, and other terms relevant to the mental health of PSP. The module also provides a brief overview of the history of Stoic service culture, when Stoicism can be helpful, and when Stoicism can be hurtful. Functional disconnection and reconnection (FD/FR) is introduced as a mechanism through which PSP can take an active role in transitioning between occupational and personal identities.

The second module focusses on brain development with emphasis on how the stress response has evolved to support the survival of our species. The discussion centers on the autonomic nervous system and its sympathetic and parasympathetic branches, hormonal dysregulation, and the impact that chronic stress can have on the brain.

The third module focusses on how unprocessed trauma can impact the nervous system, particularly in terms of dysregulation of the stress response, and describe OSIs as reflecting stress dysregulation. Participants learn how OSIs may manifest in hyper- or hypo- arousal of the nervous system as part of presenting the window of tolerance, and how to use the window of tolerance as a self-monitoring/self-awareness tool.

The fourth module is designed to highlight the connections between thoughts, emotions, and behaviours through a discussion of automatic thoughts, cognitive distortions, and cognitive biases. Facilitators emphasize the importance of monitoring thoughts and ways to disrupt unhelpful thinking patterns when they are noticed.

The fifth module is designed to increase emotional awareness, describe the purpose of emotions, and help participants understand how emotions can help make sense of experiences. Cultural and societal influences are discussed, followed by how cultural expectations can lead to the suppression of perceived unacceptable emotions.

The sixth module focusses on the role of avoidance in maintaining anxiety and post-trauma reactions, and how avoidance can interfere with the natural process of recovery. The concepts of habituation and in vivo exposure are introduced. Gradual exposure is proposed as a means of reducing problematic avoidance behaviours, with discussions of engagement strategies to increase self-efficacy.

The seventh module is designed to discuss how operational stress can negatively impact communication. Key communication skills are presented to enhance interpersonal understanding.

The eighth and final module is designed to introduce how empathy can be helpful to the individual and the community they serve but can also be a vulnerability during the PSP career. FD/FR is revisited as a strategy to balance the paradox of empathy. PSP are encouraged to draw upon different skills and values when engaged in occupational functions compared to personal roles. Self-awareness is necessary to differentiate these identities through an intentional, actionable process. PSP are encouraged throughout the final module to identify specific strategies they will employ to facilitate FD/FR.

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