5 Signs Your Military Family Should Consider Counseling

Soldier reunited with her sonMilitary families tend to have more stressors in their lives than many other families. Due to their repeated moves, they can sometimes struggle to maintain close bonds with their extended families and friends. They may not be able to visit as often as they’d like for holidays and may end up missing family celebrations. A burden can also be placed on the spouse or partner of the service member, who may need to change jobs frequently, and on their children, who have to adapt to new schools and classmates.

In addition to being transferred from one place to another, military families also have to contend with the effects and aftereffects of deployment. Partners and children may end up being separated from their loved one for long periods of time and often spend a considerable amount of time worrying about their safety. Even after they are reunited, the whole family may struggle with readapting to living together, as well as with the aftermath of their loved one trying to come to terms with any trauma experienced while deployed.

With all of these stressors present in their lives, how can military families maintain a good psychological outlook and lead a healthy family life? In many cases, counseling may be a helpful solution to deal with the pressures involved. The following are a few of the signs that seeking professional help may be beneficial:

1. Conflict in the Marriage

Military families often struggle to readapt after the active service member returns home. His or her spouse or partner may not understand the emotional and psychological effects of any trauma experienced and the strain this can cause on the marriage or relationship. Angry outbursts, emotional distancing, and feeling misunderstood are just a few of the problems that can negatively impact the relationship. Couples counseling would be a good option to help the family work through these issues.

2. Symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress

If the service member is dealing with intrusive thoughts of one or more traumatic events, flashbacks, nightmares, emotional detachment, hypervigilance, and/or any other distressing symptoms, obtaining professional help is critical in order to provide some relief and deal with the aftereffects of the trauma.

3. Difficulties Performing Job Duties

Anytime someone experiences problems with their normal functioning or becomes unable to perform routine tasks or job duties, psychotherapy can be a helpful solution. These symptoms may be warning signs of depression and/or suicidal thoughts, and should not be taken lightly.

4. Addiction to Drugs or Alcohol

Service members may at times resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse, in order to try to numb out uncomfortable feelings and obtain some type of temporary relief. Reaching out for help and sharing their emotions with an empathic other is a much more effective method of addressing the underlying problems and providing long-term relief.

5. Children Acting Out

When there is a lot of conflict in the home, due to marital difficulties or problems related to reintegration, children may start misbehaving in order to try to diffuse the tension. Obtaining family counseling may be helpful in working through the various issues that each family member may be dealing with.

Psychological stress is unfortunately often an integral part of the military lifestyle. Fortunately, the strain put on the family can be be mitigated by reaching out for assistance when needed. There is still a lot of stigma, however, surrounding mental health issues in the military, so families may sometimes hesitate to seek out the help they need. Obtaining help in a timely manner is crucial for the well-being of the entire family unit.

© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Wendy Salazar, MFT, therapist in San Diego, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Will

    November 10th, 2015 at 8:04 AM

    There are so many things that a military family goes through that I am sure most of us don’t even have a clue about.

  • brick

    November 10th, 2015 at 10:27 AM

    As a member of any branch of the service you spend a whole lot of time thinking about how to save and protect other people that rarely does any time go into the things that you should also be doing to care for yourself. Then when you come out and you have this time to do that you see that you did a really poor job at it before and you want to do better but you really don’t have the skills to even know how. And the small things make you angry because you are used to being a fixer and then you come home to all of these things that you can’t just sit down and fix and all of that can be terribly frustrating.

  • Adrienne

    November 10th, 2015 at 3:08 PM

    I wonder how many military families actually take this step and seek outside help like this.
    From my own experience I know that many military families can be very closed off just because this is how they have been taught and instructed to be.
    They take care of their own and don’t like to let any outsiders in.
    I know that there are many soldiers who feel like this, who think that they don’t want anyone else knowing their business so it can be difficult to change this whole mindset.

  • Sarah

    November 11th, 2015 at 7:40 AM

    The one mistake that I see so many couples make is that they try to go back to life as it was before. but that is impossible. Everything is new again and you have to make it new again and stop focusing on what was, and look forward to what the relationship will be now.

  • Assad

    November 11th, 2015 at 2:04 PM

    I really don’t think that there is any soldier who thinks about coming home and causing turmoil. I think that for the most part most of us dream about coming home and settling into a nice family routine where everyone is happy to be together again. What I think that we forget is that this is a family who has been getting along without you and they have become accustomed to doing things their way. That doesn’t mean that they haven’t missed you and are not glad that you are back, but it does mean that this is going to be a learning time of transition for everyone. I think that families have to be willing to give it a little time and adjust to life together again before throwing their hands up.

  • jenny

    November 12th, 2015 at 5:22 AM

    haha if you are a military family then you might need counseling- lots of things that go on in those marriages that make it difficult for all

  • Samuel

    November 14th, 2015 at 9:27 AM

    Even though you might be deployed and are usually aorund a lot of different guys, there are still times that can lead to a whole lot of being lonely.
    That can be very draining on you no matter who you are or how strong you are.

  • Jane F

    November 17th, 2015 at 10:25 AM

    It would make a whole lot of sense for the military to encourage the use of more counseling for military families. I think that it would promote more cohesion and strength in the family than they might have without it.

  • Luke Y

    September 27th, 2016 at 6:49 AM

    Thank you for discussing the drug and alcohol addiction of veterans. It is true that they can cause a lot of problems in the home. If you are the spouse of a returning veteran with a drug or alcohol problem, it might be a good idea to visit a counselor.

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