During my 20+ years working in the mental health field, I have worked with multiple military-connected couples. Often, the entry point for couples’ work was a spouse who had been given an ultimatum about working on resolving marital conflict or face separation/divorce. In one study by Pflieger et al. (2018), researchers found that while military couples face additional stressors, the majority of marital dissatisfaction can be explained by stressors not unique to the military service. In my work with couples, I found this to be true. While many of the stressors may have surfaced during their military service (i.e., conflict regarding parental responsibilities during the deployment cycle), the stressors themselves are also found in civilian couples
Providing therapy to military-connected clients with PTSD during the pandemic has raised my awareness about the intersection between trauma symptoms, COVID-19-related anxiety and distress, and military values that can help individuals cope with the outbreak like having good situational awareness, taking individual responsibility, applying discipline, and striving for the larger mission to maintain safety and protect others. My clinical work has also led me to think more about how the pandemic is impacting military members and their families overall.
Family resilience is also a topic that my colleagues and I have discussed a great deal over the past few months in regards to the current pandemic. So, my interest was piqued when I recently ran across an article by Dr. Heather Prime and colleagues in American Psychologist focusing on how to encourage family resilience in the wake of COVID-19-related stressors. One of the first things I noticed was that the conceptual framework that they use is very similar to the one we describe when talking about military family resilience in our training events.
Following up on Christy Collette’s piece on "Military Family Resilience during COVID-19," this week’s blog will share additional information about the unique impacts of the pandemic on military families. Using information gathered directly from five different military families during the first wave of COVID-19, this blog will highlight some of the important issues behavioral health providers should consider when working with military families.