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An African American

Couples and Family

"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)

A screen shot of a video-a young veteran talks about how his military experiences affect his relationships with his family.View Veterans’ personal stories of relationships and family.

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.

1)Steelfisher, Zaslavsky, & Blendon, 2008 in Makin-Byrd et al., 2011; 2) McFarlane, 2009, 3) Sayers, Farrow, Ross, & Oslin, 2009; 4) Falloon, Roncone, Held, Coverdale, & Laidlaw, 2002

Education and Programs

Educational Materials and Programs

A family picture of An Asian Veteran, his wife and young daughter.Educational materials and programs can provide family members with the information necessary to support the Veteran’s recovery and to effectively partner with their treatment providers. 

The educational topics below include information about:
  • Reintegration following deployment
  • Parenting for Servicemembers and Veterans
  • Programs to support family members of Veterans

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
  • Family education/training
  • Marriage and family counseling
a family of four lines up by the corner of a wall.

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:

  • VA Program Locator: The program locator can help you find your local VA Medical 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.

Online Resources

VA and Department of Defense Online Resources

National Center for PTSD: Family and Friends
The National Center for PTSD: Family and Friends section of the National Center for PTSD website provides information about the effects of trauma on families, children, relationships, and communities. You can find information on: Helping a Family Member Who Has PTSD; Children Coping with Deployment; Children and Teens: Web Resources; and more.

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.

Military OneSource
Military OneSource: A 24/7 Resource for Military Members, Spouses & Families*: Military OneSource is provided by the Department of Defense at no cost to active duty, Guard and Reserve (regardless of activation Status) and their families. It is a virtual extension of installation services. Visit today or call 1-800-342-9647.

Cool Tool

Cool Intervention and Technology

Parenting to Go Mobile Application
This mobile application helps Veterans and Service Members strengthen their parenting skills and reconnect with their children. Free from: iTunes (iOS)*.

screen shots of the Family to Go mobile application

Useful Resources

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