Written by Jena Novak, LMFT;
Psychotherapist, NorthLakes Community Clinic- Turtle Lake Clinic
NorthLakes Community Clinic
Families come in all shapes, sizes and varying levels of resiliency to adverse situations. Clinicians have worked for years with veterans of war and know that war affects not only the troops but also their entire circle of friends, family, employers and community. Each phase of deployment may affect the service member and each family member in different ways. The experience of deployment can be divided into three distinctive phases, each with its own associated stressors and emotions. The pre-deployment phase begins when the service member receives his/her orders in which extensive training follows. This is also a time when family conflict may become more common as the family battles feelings of denial and sadness about the service member’s departure. Second, deployment occurs when the service member begins his or her actual mission directly in or in support of war. Families typically experience a wide variety of emotions during the actual deployment including relief, sadness, numbing, or anxiety. During this phase, family members may assign new roles to its members to adjust to the service member being away. For example, the children may step in and take on more responsibility around the home to assist the non-deployed parent. Finally, reintegration occurs when the service member returns and is reunited with his or her loved ones. This period may start as a honeymoon, but end in the reality of renegotiating roles and getting to know each other once again.
According to the National Council on Family Relations, service members have ranked deployment length and family separation among their top noncombat-related stressors. Other studies have documented the impact of deployment on family members, noting the shifts needed for adjustment. For some children and youth, parental deployment has been associated with depression, anxiety, lower grades in school, and increased familial conflict. Deployment has also been linked to depression, anxiety, isolation, and sadness for some non-deployed spouses. Not surprisingly, the adjustment of the at-home parent (the non-deployed spouse) has repeatedly been shown to have the greatest impact on the overall adjustment of the children.
In my experience working in the mental health field, stigma around seeking help for mental health is an issue that military families face when searching for assistance in helping their military family member. Some believe that it shows weakness, is shameful, or colors their military record. The truth is: getting help takes tremendous strength and courage. Courage is defined as “mental strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” As a clinician, my passion is to meet people where they are, no matter the hurdle they are trying to overcome. Working with military personnel and their families is a unique and rewarding part of my career in which I am able to say “thank you for your service” to the ENTIRE family by assisting with life’s challenges pre-deployment, deployment, and post deployment.
NorthLakes Community Clinic (NLCC) has 11 clinic locations in Ashland, Balsam Lake, Hayward, Iron River, Minong, Turtle Lake, and Washburn. NLCC locations offer: medical, dental, mental health counseling, recovery services (substance abuse/AODA counseling, HOPE), chiropractic, pediatric speech therapy, pediatric occupational therapy, and prescriptions for patients. Clinics are open Monday through Friday. For more information visit http://northlakesclinic.org. NLCC is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.