5 Signs Your Military Family Should Consider Counseling

November 10, 2015 • By Wendy Salazar, MFT, GoodTherapy.org Topic Expert Contributor

Military 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 anempathic 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, MFTtherapist in San Diego, California

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