Partners and Families of Veterans

A substantial portion of Veterans who served in recent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are older, married (over 50%), and have children. Involving partners and families in treatment is related to improved treatment outcome for many psychological conditions and is a national priority for Veteran mental health services (VHA Directive 2006-041).

Overview

Deployments can be challenging to families and partners of Service members in a number of ways. These challenges can include loss of income and childcare and changes to family roles while the Service member is deployed. Partners of Service members 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 Service members are impacted by the deployment of their child/brother/sister, however, information on the ways in which these family members are impacted is limited.

1 Steelfisher, Zaslavsky, & Blendon, 2008 in Makin-Byrd et al., 2011; 2 McFarlane, 2009; 3 Sayers, Farrow, Ross, & Oslin, 2009

Video

Taking the first step to improve relationships

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. Watch more related videos at Make the Connection

Video source: Make the Connection: Family and Relationships

Educational Materials and Programs

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 Service members and Veterans

  • Programs to support family members of Veterans


Military OneSource logo

Military OneSource: Family & Relationships

Provides resources to support family and relationships.



PsychArmor logo

PsychArmor, Free Online Courses

PsychArmor is a national non-profit organization dedicated to bridging the military-civilian divide through free online education. The only organization of its kind, PsychArmor also provides a Support Center staffed with mental health experts to provide coaching and follow-up to its learners. Their self-paced courses provide critical resources to all Americans who work with, live with, and care about Veterans.

Parenting Kit logo

Sesame Street for Military Families™

This site contains information and resources on a number of topics for Military/Veteran families and their young children.

zero to three logo

Zero to Three

Zero to Three's Coming Together Around Military Families initiative works to strengthen the resilience of young children and families who are impacted by deployment-related issues.

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Military Families at Military OneSource

Provides up-to-date information about Department of Defense programs serving troops and their families.

Military Child logo

Military Child Education Coalition

A nonprofit focused on ensuring quality educational opportunities for all military-connected children affected by mobility, family separation, and transition.

A female soldier is hugged by her daughter from the back.

The Support and Family Education (SAFE) Program

This 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 Service member/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 Healthcare Services

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

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.

  • Caregiver Program: VA's Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers has many resources and support services for family caregivers. Visit the site to learn more and check your eligibility.

Online Resources

Online VHA Mental Health Resources Available to Families and Couples

Coaching into Care logo with contact phone number:1-888-823-7458

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 app logo

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.

VA and Department of Defense Online Resources

National Center for PTSD logo

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.

PTSD Family Coach app logo

PTSD Family Coach Mobile App

can help you learn about PTSD, how to take care of yourself, and how to manage your relationship with your loved one or children. PTSD Family Coach also has information on how to help your loved one get the treatment they deserve. To download the app, please visit iTunes (iOS) or Google Play (Android).

Make the Connection logo

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.

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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.

PsychArmor logo

PsychArmor, Free Online Courses

PsychArmor is a national non-profit organization dedicated to bridging the military-civilian divide through free online education. The only organization of its kind, PsychArmor also provides a Support Center staffed with mental health experts to provide coaching and follow-up to its learners. Their self-paced courses provide critical resources to all Americans who work with, live with, and care about Veterans.

Couples Coach App logo

Couples Coach Mobile Application

Couples Coach is designed for partners who want to improve their relationship and explore new ways to connect. The app takes users through five levels of expert-written education and engaging behavioral exercises informed by science. Download Couples Coach for iOS in the App Store and for Android in the Google Play Store.