Supporting veterans with mental health problems and emotional wellbeing

Head Start is mental health and wellbeing support for veterans.

For ex-service personnel managing mental health issues, Head Start from Walking With The Wounded provides private therapy sessions without the wait.


If you need urgent help, please use our callback form. Or you can contact one of these crisis organisations below who can help.

If you feel you're at risk call SAMARITANS (24hr) on 0116 123 or the NHS out of hours service 111
If you are suicidal or at risk of harming others call 999

High quality therapy for veterans, when, where and how it’s needed

We help veterans get support with emotional wellbeing and mental health problems. For example, depression, anxiety, PTSD, or adjustment disorder. Working with the NHS, military charity and mental health charity partners, we provide access to talking therapies through accredited private therapists close to wherever the individual lives.

We know talking therapies can have a positive impact on people with mental health and emotional wellbeing. Head Start only ever uses therapies that are evidence based and recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). These include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), both proven to support improved mental health and wellbeing.

Head Start is a national service that gets ex-Forces personnel rapid mental health support. From the point that you complete our referral and consent form to treatment, we will try to get our clients talking to a therapist within 10 days.

Ex-military personnel can receive up to 12 private counselling sessions. For those who prefer face-to-face therapy sessions, they can usually see a therapist within 10 miles of their home. For digital support, we will arrange therapy sessions around our client’s existing commitments to make sure the therapy works for them and their family.


Martin, a WWTW beneficiary


Accessing mental health support is quick and simple through Head Start

It can be tough to get the right treatment at the right time. That’s why we’re working in partnership with accredited therapists, the NHS, the Ministry of Defence and military charities to make sure ex-military service personnel can get mental health support quickly and close to home. Here’s how veterans can get help with mental health:

  1. Visit NHS Op COURAGE. Op COURAGE offers mental health support for veterans, service leavers and reservists. This service is available across England with each region having a 24/7 single access point. Op COURAGE will make a mental health needs assessment, and if appropriate, they can make a direct referral to Head Start.

  2. Ex-Forces can also talk with their GP or other healthcare professional to explore NHS mental health support. Not all GPs know about Head Start, so show them the Head Start leaflet that you can download below.


Head Start Leaflet

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3. Once discussed with the NHS, if the wait for NHS face-to-face therapy is over 12 weeks, and the mental health need is mild to moderate, a GP or other healthcare professional can refer directly to Head Start through the Walking With The Wounded website.

We’re not able to take on self-referrals. But we will always work with those who’ve served and who need mental health support to get them high quality support as quickly as possible.

Head Start, provided by Walking With The Wounded offers support for ex-military partners to cope while caring for a veteran with mental health problems.

Head Start provides mental health support that’s proven to work

For people who’ve served in the military, our Head Start mental health programme is designed to improve mental health and emotional wellbeing. We stay by the side of our veterans every step of the way, helping them better meet challenges in their daily life.

Head Start has been reviewed and evaluated by leading experts at King’s College London, the Centre for Mental Health and Pro Bono Economics who found:

  • Veterans who went through Head Start had clinical improvement in both anxiety and depression by the end of therapy.
  • Head Start led to a sustained improvement in work and social functionality. This is particularly valuable in terms of finding and staying in work.
  • Head Start has been shown to improve social function and wellbeing generally, and even where clinical scores have not improved.

For more detailed information on Head Start’s impact, please visit our Head Start impact and accreditations page.

We work with therapists who represent the diversity of our veterans

We want people of all backgrounds to see Walking With The Wounded as an organisation where they are welcomed. It’s part of our ongoing commitment to champion Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

We understand the importance of building a workforce that includes different lived experiences. This is how we can become more creative and inclusive as an organisation, while we challenge our thinking and widen our reach.

Our commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion is demonstrated through our programmes and partnerships which are designed around veterans and their families, reflecting their diverse backgrounds, including, but not limited to, age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.

We recognise the unique challenges that certain ex-Forces communities may face, which might make them less likely to access NHS services, including our Head Start mental health service. To ensure that we reach those who need our support, we are reviewing our programmes through the lenses of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. By identifying the barriers and understanding their experiences, we can provide tailored programmes so that all ex-Forces communities feel confident and comfortable in accessing our services.

Find out more about Head Start's impact and accreditations and Head Start support for families of ex-Forces personnel.


Photo of Maya Gagni
Maya Gagni

Maya is a therapist with Walking With The Wounded providing Click Therapies.

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Photo of Maya Gagni
Maya Gagni

Maya is a therapist with Walking With The Wounded providing Click Therapies.

Click Therapies support WWTW with some of our online therapy. Their CBT therapists are registered with the British Association of Behavioural & Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP).

“Being part of someone’s journey is a privilege. Being entrusted with someone’s inner thoughts, feelings and trust feels important. Every time a client experiences a change in their difficulties it is a step closer to living a full life in its potential.”

Photo of Ben Amponsah
Ben Amponsah

Ben is a psychotherapist, consultant, coach and trainer.

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Photo of Ben Amponsah
Ben Amponsah

Ben is a psychotherapist, consultant, coach and trainer and has been supporting Walking With The Wounded clients with their mental health issues for a number of years.

Photo of Dirk Hansen
Dirk Hansen

Dirk has worked in the field of counselling and mental health for over 25 years.

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Photo of Dirk Hansen
Dirk Hansen

Dirk is located within the Warwickshire region and has a private practice based in Leamington Spa. He has worked in the field of counselling and mental health for over 25 years and has qualifications in both the UK and the USA. He uses evidence-based methods in his counselling practice and has accumulated useful knowledge by working in numerous clinical settings, and with a variety of individuals with diverse needs.

“I hope that WWTW services will continue to expand in the Warwickshire area. I am impressed by the coordination of services that are available and look forward to providing specialist support to ex-personnel in this region in the future.”

Photo of Carol Potter
Carol Potter

Carol is a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and Integrative Counsellor.

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Photo of Carol Potter
Carol Potter

Carol has worked with WWTW for the last four years. She is a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and Integrative Counsellor.

“I work in several different mental health-based settings but have a huge preference for my work with WWTW. Often when clients are referred, they are at their most vulnerable. They may be experiencing suicidal thoughts, feeling completely worthless, experiencing flashbacks and intrusive thoughts, or be angry at everything. Some clients feel dissociated and report not actually experiencing any emotions, just ‘numbness’. This will of course, often be having a bearing on the people around them. 

"With gentle trauma-based CBT therapy, clients can make a huge turnaround. Often, they find that their anger diminishes, flashbacks stop, sleep improves and relationships with others begin to flourish. Clients report that they can go about daily life activities feeling more confident within themselves and experiencing pleasure once again.”


    • No. At Head Start we can’t accept self-referrals. All referrals have to be submitted by a healthcare professional. This makes sure we have a professional assessment of how best to support our clients.

    • No, if your referral is approved, you will get 12 sessions free of charge to you.

    • We’ll try and find you a therapist no further than 10 miles from where you live.

    • To make sure we’re not duplicating treatment, or giving confusing or conflicting therapy, we prefer people to complete their current treatments before starting with Head Start.

    • Yes, you do not need to have deployed on operations to be referred to Head Start.

    • If you have previously had successful therapeutic interventions such as CBT and EMDR with Head Start, and you think more sessions would help, then we can consider six more sessions. Please make sure your referrer includes ‘top up’ as a key point on your referral.

    • To find out more about our Head Start mental health talking therapy service for veterans, please call the Head Start team on 01263 863 906 or email headstart@wwtw.org.uk

    • Head Start supports veterans with common mental health difficulties including depression, anxiety, adjustment disorder and PTSD, offering 12 sessions of therapy. If you require longer term care, for example, your difficulties are more severe and complex, Head Start may not be for you. Please talk to your GP or other health care professional about other types of support.

    • No. The NHS is the first place to look for mental health support. An Op COURAGE clinician can refer you to Head Start if you have to wait over 12 weeks for treatment through your local NHS, or your mild to moderately severe mental health needs cannot be met by the NHS.

    • Once you’ve got a place with Head Start, we’ll post you a pack with a consent form. You need to return the form within three weeks, and once we have your consent, we’ll try our hardest to get you connected with your therapist within 10 working days. Depending on your and the therapist’s availability, it could be much faster, or up to two weeks.

    • If you are a healthcare professional and want to refer a military ex-service personnel to Head Start, please email headstart@wwtw.org.uk

    • We always welcome new therapists who want to work with veterans. Therapists who are accredited members of the BACP, BABCP or EMDR UK & Ireland and HCPC/BPS members are all eligible to become registered with Head Start’s national network of private therapists. Just contact the Head Start team on headstart@wwtw.org.uk.

      For any further information, please call us on 01263 863906 or email headstart@wwtw.org.uk. Our working hours are Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

    • Walking With The Wounded supports veterans who have served in the military. If you are still in active service but have your discharge date agreed, we can support you in your last 12 weeks of service as you transition from the military. You just need to register with a GP or be referred by Op Courage.

    • Yes, if you’re a veteran and want support with mild to moderately severe mental health, you can be referred to Head Start.

    • Please try and give 48 hours notice if you can't make an appointment. This allows the therapist to offer the appointment to another client. We can’t fund extra appointments if appointments are cancelled with shorter notice.

    • If you have special requirements, please let us know in advance. Therapy can be challenging and might feel uncomfortable to start. You don’t have to like your therapist but it does help if you trust and respect them. You should feel able to be honest with them, so If you have any issues, it’s perfectly acceptable for you to talk them through together. If they cannot be resolved please inform Head Start.