"We must be there for the military families whose loved ones are in harm’s way – for they serve as well." (President Barack Obama, May 25, 2013, The White House)
Family and Couples Basics
Quick Facts about Military and Veteran Families and Couples:
A substantial portion of Veterans who served in recent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are older, married (over 50%), and have children.
Deployments can be challenging to families and partners of Servicemembers in a number of ways. These challenges can include loss of income and childcare and changes to family roles while the Servicemember is deployed. Partners of Servicemembers have reported deployment related loneliness, anxiety, and depression, and children demonstrate more behavioral problems during their parents' deployment.1
Following deployment, most military families will adjust successfully and their children will be healthy and resilient.2
However, during behavioral health evaluations of newly returned Veterans, family issues are commonly reported (78%3). Veterans with PTSD or depression are even more likely to endorse family readjustment issues.
Parents or siblings of Servicemembers are impacted by the deployment of their child/brother/sister, however, information on the ways in which these family members are impacted is limited.
Involving Families and Couples in Treatment is:
… related to improved treatment outcome for many psychological conditions 4
… a national priority for Veteran mental health services (VHA Directive 2006-041)
The experiences of military life can affect Veterans in ways that may impact their relationships. Watch Veterans talk about working through problems with their friends and loved ones and finding solutions that benefit everyone.
Parenting for Service Members and Veterans
This is a free online parenting course developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Mental Health Services in partnership with the Department of Defense National Center for Telehealth and Technology (T2). The course provides military and Veteran parents with information and strategies to improve their parenting skills.
Talk, Listen, Connect: Deployment, Homecoming, Changes These free outreach kits were developed as a joint effort between VHA, DoD, & Sesame Workshop™. The bilingual educational outreach initiative is designed for Military/Veteran families and their young children and VA has distributed more than 200,000 outreach kits to the VA Medical Centers and Vet Centers. Outreach kits include two Sesame Street DVDs, a magazine for parents and caregivers, a children’s activity poster, Sesame Street postcards, and suggestions for additional resources.
Military Child Education Coalition
A nonprofit focused on ensuring quality educational opportunities for all military-connected children affected by mobility, family separation, and transition.
The Support and Family Education (SAFE) Program
is an 18 session workshop for adults who care about someone living with a mental illness (including PTSD). Goals of the program include providing opportunities for family members to learn about the symptoms and course of mental illness/PTSD, ask questions and discuss concerns, and receive support from other family members in similar situations. This program mainly covers four areas: 1) Information about various conditions such as PTSD, 2) Skills for family members, 3) The experience of caring about someone living with a mental illness, and 4) Dealing with family, friends and professionals including coping with the stigma surrounding mental illness. It was developed by Dr. Michelle Sherman at the Oklahoma VA/VISN 16 Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center (MIRECC). This program may be available at some but not all VA Medical Centers.
Contact your local VA medical center to determine availability.
Operation Enduring Families
This is a 5-session family education and support program for Veterans who have served in Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) and Operation New Dawn (OND) and their family members developed by Dr. Michelle Sherman at the Oklahoma VA/VISN 16 MIRECC. The purpose of this program is to help the returning Servicemember/Veteran adjust to family life and to help family members cope with the significant stressors of deployment and reintegration. Session topics include family relationships, communication and intimacy, anger, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and depression. This program may be available at some but not all VA Medical Centers. Contact your local VA medical center to determine availability.
VHA and NAMI have established a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This MOU outlines the collaborative effort between VHA and NAMI and states that the NAMI FFEP program will be offered in at least one VHA facility in each state during the two year period from June 2008 to June 2010. A second MOU was later developed to reinforce the inclusion of this peer-led training into the continuum of VHA family services, and to serve as a model to continue the implementation of FFEP throughout each state.
VA Healthcare Services
VA Healthcare Services for Couples and Families
All VA family services are consistent with a recovery philosophy and provide a continuum of services including:
Prevention/family resiliency training
Marriage and family counseling
Family and Couples Services at VA Medical Centers and Clinics Include:
Family consultation and family education for Veterans with serious mental illness are provided at VA Medical Centers and certain community based outpatient clinics.
Opportunities for these family services must be available to all Veterans with serious mental illness either at VA medical centers, by telemental health, or with community providers through sharing arrangements, contracting, or non-VA fee basis care.
Providing evidence-based family and couples treatments is a priority within VA mental health services. Treatments provided may include Integrative Behavioral Couples Therapy (IBCT), Behavioral Couples Therapy for Substance Abuse Disorders (BCT), and Behavioral Family Therapy (BFT) for Serious Psychiatric Disorders. Contact mental health services at your local VA Medical Center or clinic to learn more about what treatments are offered.
Discussion of family involvement with the Veteran at least yearly and at inpatient discharge.
Family Member, Couple or Caregiver: Eligibility for VHA Mental Health Services
Available VA services for immediate family members and caregivers include training/education, consultation, and marriage and family counseling as is necessary in connection with treatment. These services are available to the individuals listed below.
Members of immediate family or legal guardian of a Veteran.
Family caregiver of an eligible Veteran or a caregiver of a covered Veteran (see PL 111-163 for definition of these terms).
Individual in whose household an eligible Veteran intends to live.
Connect to Services at Your Local VA Medical Center or Vet Center:
Vet Center: Eligible Veterans can also find counseling services, support and resources at Readjustment Counseling Centers. To learn more about the services provided at these centers please see their website.
Online VHA Mental Health Resources Available to Families and Couples:
Coaching Into Care: A VA program that offers advice on how to best talk to your Veteran about engaging in care. The program offers the following free services: encouragement and information about getting an evaluation and services, referrals to services for Veterans and their family members and family member coaching to motivate Veterans for evaluation/consultation.
Moving Forward: This is a free self-guided online resiliency program based on an evidence-based problem-solving training (Nezu and Nezu, 2013). The goal of the program is to enhance effective problem-solving orientations and strategies across a range of issues.
Make the Connection Visit the Make the Connection website to view stories from Veterans’ family members who have supported their Veterans and helped them find resources for overcoming mental health challenges.
Make the Connection is a one-stop resource where Veterans and their families and friends can privately explore information on mental health issues, hear fellow Veterans and their families share their stories of resilience, and easily find and access the support and resources they need.
Watch video testimonials from families and friends of Veterans, hear how they overcame mental health challenges, and find information and resources for support.
Coaching into Care
A VA program that offers advice on how to best talk to your Veteran about engaging in care. The program offers the following free services: encouragement and information about getting an evaluation and services, referrals to services for Veterans and their family members and family member coaching to motivate Veterans for evaluation/consultation.