service members, spouses and parents of soldiers fared during
deployment and three years after.
HomeFront Strong families are an important group to target
because many personnel are in the National Guard and Reserve
and lack connections with and support from military bases,
Kees says. “These families can literally be living one street over
from someone and not know they’re military,” she says.
The program — a pilot project funded by the Ethel and
James Flinn Foundation, a Michigan-based philanthropy —
features eight weekly classes grounded in empirically based
theories and strategies relevant to deployment. Positive
psychology tools can help spouses build optimism in the face of
uncertainty, for instance, while cognitive behavioral strategies
offer ways to expand and normalize participants’ thinking,
which tends to be more negative during deployment. The
program also relies on aspects of dialectical behavior therapy
to help participants tolerate difficult emotions, while social
support can help them cope across life domains.
As with the FOCUS intervention, narrative therapy plays
a part by helping participants frame their lives and situations
in more meaningful ways, Kees adds. “It’s all grounded in the
notion that the story you tell yourself matters,” she says.
The two-hour sessions include a talk, discussion time, a
grounding exercise like progressive muscle relaxation or a
mindfulness technique, and homework. They’re designed to be
fun and interactive: After a take-in dinner, participants discuss
such topics as coping with their partners’ deployment, dealing
with challenging thoughts and regulating their emotions.
Humor and sharing are encouraged.
Many women end the sessions feeling more attuned to their
strengths, says Kees. “They’ll say, ‘This [experience of deployment]
was hard, but I learned I’m stronger than I thought I was.’”
In measures taken right after the intervention, 16
participants reported less stress and anxiety, more optimism
and life satisfaction, and for parents, less parenting stress than
they had before meeting with each other. They also reported a
greater ability to handle stress thanks to tools such as learning
how to identify negative thoughts, distressing emotions and
positive social support.
And at least in this sample, their ties lasted, Kees adds.
“They created a social network outside of our group, and that
is incredibly powerful,” she says. The team is now analyzing
longer-term follow-up data.
Next on Kees’s docket: program dissemination. In October,
she received additional funding from the Flinn Foundation to
train providers in other Michigan communities, which she will
begin to do in January. University of Michigan researchers will
evaluate the effort.
Kees says that working with these families opened her eyes
to an admirable but poorly understood culture. “It’s a volunteer
military, but less than 1 percent of our population volunteers,”
says Kees. “So there is something very unique and honorable
about that 1 percent. They sacrifice so much, and it’s our
obligation to serve them.” n
Tori DeAngelis is a writer in Syracuse, N. Y.
Check out APA’s “Road to Resilience”
brochure, which focuses on ways to develop
personal strategies for enhancing resilience.
The brochure is available at www.apa.org/
Also free to APA members is the
“Homecoming” brochure, which discusses
the stress and anxiety people may face
when service members return home from
deployment. This resource appears at www.apa.
To order brochures in print form, go to www.
members can order up to 50 copies for free.
Adler, A. B., Bliese, P. D., & Castro, C.
A. (Eds.). (2011). Deployment psychology:
Evidence-based strategies to promote mental
health in the military. Washington, DC:
American Psychological Association.
Andrews, B. (2012). Why are you so scared?
A child’s book about parents with PTSD.
Washington, DC: Magination Press/American
Moore, B. A., & Kennedy, C. H. (2011). Wheels
down: Adjusting to life after deployment.
Washington, DC: American Psychological
Ouimette, J., & Read, J. P. (Eds.). (2014).
Trauma and substance abuse: Causes,
consequences, and treatment of comorbid
disorders (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: American
Ruzek, J. I., Schnurr, P. P., Vasterling, J.
J., & Friedman, M. J. (Eds.). (2011). Caring
for veterans with deployment-related stress
disorders: Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond.
Washington, DC: American Psychological
Sinclair, R. R., & Britt, T. W. (Eds.). (2013).
Building psychological resilience in military
personnel: Theory and practice. Washington,
DC: American Psychological Association.