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By: Erin Biery, MA, PLMFT

I always feel a twinge of excitement when the list comes out for potential PCS locations. As my partner and I begin to fill out our dream sheet, I like to imagine life in a small town, on an island, or even in a big city. Freshly out of graduate school and newly married, my first duty station was in Italy. Travel is a passion of mine. So, moving to Europe seemed like it would be the perfect fix for my travel ready heart (and let’s be honest, what better place to start one’s marriage than Italy!). With my bags packed and masters degree in hand, I was ready to begin work on my postgraduate licensing hours and bring health and wellness to military couples and families. Within a few short months of my OCONUS move I became like Goofy going down the ski jump in The Art of Skiing. The initial launch seemed good. However, it was not long before I realized I was not going to land where I had anticipated. I was tangled up in red tape and I began to grip onto my hopes of obtaining my postgraduate licensing hours at our OCONUS location. I quickly learned to make a few adjustments and broaden my idea of what “landing” would look like and when. Currently in my second OCONUS assignment, I would like to share my experience, strength and hope by passing on a few tips and some encouragement for not just surviving but thriving during your pre- licensure OCONUS move.

It is a common recommendation to obtain your clinical license before moving anywhere, as it is slightly easier to transfer a license than it is to transfer pre-licensure hours. However, separating from one’s partner and family for two or more years to obtain licensing hours may not work for everyone.

Breaking the code: network, network, network

As you begin looking into employment opportunities at the new duty station it may seem like you need a special decoder ring to break the code and join the club. The bigger your network within the agencies both on and off base, the greater your chances are for getting a position to fulfill your hours. Be sure to check with your licensing board in your State regarding specific rules regulating supervision and what type of client hours will count toward your license.     

If you are hoping to work in your local community off base (aka “on the economy”), be sure to inquire with the legal department regarding the SOFA agreement. Some OCONUS locations have special agreements with the host nation restricting employment “on the economy.” This may limit your options to the organizations/agencies on base.

If you are determined to get a paid position on base, brush up your federal resume and check out USAjobs.gov and NAFjobs.org. It never hurts to go to the welcome briefings, often sponsored by the family readiness office, and meet some of the folks from the organizations you may be interested in offering your expertise and services. Also, reach out to your fellow military spouse, behavioral health clinicians. This is a journey that has been traveled by many before and sometimes our fellow clinicians may know of a position coming available or whom you need to contact.  

You may find that most, if not all available, paid positions require you to be fully licensed. All hope is not lost. Often, volunteer opportunities exist with Family Advocacy, The Family Readiness Group, The Red Cross, and the Chapel, to name a few.

Mind the gap

For some, taking a gap year (or two+) may be necessary. I was terrified when I took a year off while we were stationed in Italy. My supervisor at the time assured me that it would not be the end of my career if I took some time off and she was right. However, as a beginning clinician it is of value to continue to learn and sharpen your skills. Some gap year fillers may include: obtaining a postgraduate certificate in your specialty/niche, attending an externship with a master clinician, and working on continuing education.  Some professional organizations have been known to hold conferences and institutes throughout Europe. If you are particularly drawn to a master clinician, look up their lecture calendar as many of them hold trainings and externships at various locations around the world.

Many underestimate the value of their OCONUS experience in gaining cultural competencies. Taking time to learn more about the military overseas and the many changes and challenges military families face may boost your understanding of the diverse experience of military life. But be sure to take advantage of learning the culture and language of the host nation.            

Self-care

Self-care is essential when moving overseas. With all the usual PCS stressors, you will also have the added stress of living in a foreign country, possibly a new climate, and a significant time change. During my moves overseas, I have had to become flexible with my self-care routines and even add new ones as my OCONUS locations required. Be sure to add a little extra patience, flexibility and grace to your self-care routines as you transition to an OCONUS location.

Leave a comment below if you needed this today!

Thanks for reading!

Erin is a Provisionally Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Louisiana. She earned a Master’s degree in Theology from Seton Hall University and a Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and postgraduate certificate in Counseling Children and Adolescents from Regis University. Erin has been a leader and clinician in both the mental health and education fields. In 2014 she was the recipient of the CAMFT Student of the Year award and Ruckert-Hartman College for Health Professions Division of Counseling and Family Therapy Outstanding Graduate Award. Erin is passionate about assisting couples and families find healing and happiness through a context of safe, secure bonds.

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MSBHC Blog by Ingrid Herrera-yee - 3M ago

By Bri Kriley

Two days after my husband left for a month-long training, I was assaulted.

I physically and successfully fought off my attacker. It didn’t matter though, because I didn’t feel strong, safe, or independent.
I wanted to process this isolating experience. I wanted to feel secure, confident, and self-reliant.


I Sought Counseling

My counselor assumed I was struggling with my husband’s inability to protect me. She questioned what I needed from him and how he could best support me from afar. She frequently reminded me that he’d be home soon and told me how strong I was to be married to someone who couldn’t be there for me.

I didn’t continue with this counselor.

Another PCS halted my internship and extended my graduation (again). My career goals seemed unobtainable and I started to feel unaccomplished and hopeless. I harbored resentment toward our military journey and began to feel conflicted and disorganized.

I wanted to focus on accepting the things I couldn’t control, while loving the inconsistency of military life.

I sought counseling, again.

My counselor openly admitted she knew little about military lifestyle and didn’t explore it with me. She demanded that I deserved more. She questioned my predicament with judgmental ‘why’ questions.

Why don’t you know where you’ll move next?

Why doesn’t your husband just ask where he’ll be sent?

Why won’t your post-grad hours transfer to another state? Why wouldn’t you just stay here until you finish your license requirements? Why are you letting his career hold you back from yours?

I didn’t continue with this counselor.

Cultural Curiosity

Without getting caught up in semantics, I choose to use cultural curiosity rather than cultural competency, consideration, sensitivity, understanding, awareness, or any other variation. Counselors are expected to provide services that meet the needs of clients, while respecting diversity. Military spouses are incomprehensibly diverse, an inextricable dichotomy.

Anything short of authentic curiosity and radical, nonjudgmental acceptance fails to appropriately support military spouses.

Start the Conversation

I am determined, because of my experiences, to start this conversation about military (spouse) culture at every opportunity. I want to better understand how counselors can best support military spouses and how to share this knowledge with professionals with no military affiliation.

Military lifestyle is complicated. I want both separation from and connection to my role as a military spouse. I desire a fierce understanding of my loyalty to my husband’s career AND my own. I need a place to process the unique challenges and joys of being a military spouse.

I don’t want to have to explain how I do it, defend the time he spends away from home, or renounce knowing what I was getting into.

I invite you to consider your own stories, your own recommendations, and your own answers or responses to this topic—and share them. This conversation will raise awareness, promote understanding, and encourage acceptance. This conversation can prevent broken therapeutic relationship among military spouses and civilian counselors.

This conversation, alone, advocates for military culture. 

Bri Kriley is a National Certified Counselor, Licensed Mental Health Counselor Associate, and a doctoral student at Capella University. She has worked with active duty service members, military spouses, and military couples. Currently, she works as a Child and Family Therapist in the Wrap Around with Intensive Services (WISe) program.


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By Marinelle Reynolds, LCSW

3.      They nurtured strong strategic networks 

Who we surround ourselves with greatly influences us. We soak up the thinking and emotions of our environment, which in turn affects our own thinking, feelings and choices. Who we have closest to us greatly influences our confidence and belief not only in ourselves but in possibilities.

During the interview process it became clear that successful spouses surrounded themselves with key people. Janine Garner, author of It’s Who You Know, argues that a “mutually beneficial and effective network is not about quantity, it’s about quality”. She argues that when you surround yourself with four types of key people it provides you with the series of stepping stones needed for success.

Gina Ramirez, health coach and business owner, states that the best advice that she has for aspiring military spouses is to “get in touch with your passions, get connected with your community and find your tribe. They will help encourage you, motivate you and keep you on track”. Whether intentional or unintentional successful military spouses surrounded themselves with diverse, military and non-military affiliated individuals with these common characteristics.

“Those closest to you determine your level of success, so choosing
the right companions as partners in your vision is an important decision.
My advice is to surround yourself with people who will challenge you,
help you grow and inspire you to maximize your potential.”
— John C. Maxwell

a.      Promoters – Garner defines Promoters as “having your own personal cheerleading squad”. These individuals are with you through good times and bad. They encourage you to reach towards your dreams, promote you to others, and inspire you to become more.

 b.      Pit Crew – According to Garner, your Pit Crew “keeps you true and on track, they prevent emotions from getting the better of you and support you all the way”. They are the ones that help pick you up when you fall. They help you problem solve barriers and encourage you to keep going.

c.      Teachers – These key people in your network help you develop mastery and knowledge. They challenge your skills and thinking to help you grow. They help you see things from different perspectives and help you to think critically. Garner suggests that the Teachers in your network “challenge you and your thinking because they believe in you”.

d.      Butt kickers – We all need a kick in the pants every now and then. It’s not enough to have a dream. In order to achieve success, we also have to have follow through. According to Garner, Butt Kickers are those people in your life that listen to your dream, push you to do more and hold you accountable.

Ingrid Herrera-Yee, founder of Military Spouse Behavioral Health Clinicians, argues that “having a network of supporters is vital to your success. Your connections will help you navigate the challenging times and connect you to opportunities and potential jobs. Reaching out is key. We’ve all been there”.

4.      They value education and training

There is strong correlation between educational level and employment. According to the 2017, Bureau of Labor and Statistics, individuals with a high school diploma experienced unemployment rates at almost double the rate of individuals with a college degree. Career and technical education are vital for expanding job opportunities for military spouses.

Military spouses that have successfully navigated their careers had chosen careers that were in high demand. They balanced the financial investment involved in education and training with the potential for earning. And they had chosen career fields with the highest chance of portability. The National Military Family Association calls this the Trifecta. Examples of this are careers in the medical and dental field and careers in information technology.

While having a higher education did not prevent unemployment 100% for military spouses, it did appear to open up more job opportunities in locations where licensure portability or job opportunity was limited.

Crystal Kirschman, owner and Program Director, started an Intensive Outpatient Program and Mental Health Clinic when she moved to an area with limited career opportunities. She points out, “I’ve had many starts and stops in my career. But I focused on the experience. As long as I worked in something related to my field, I took the job and it prepared me and my business for where I am today”.

5.      They have grit

Successful military spouses have the ability to hold steadfast towards their goals. No matter what challenges life throws, they demonstrate courage, determination, and flexibility. Successful military spouses are gritty. Angela Duckworth, Ted Talk speaker and author, defines grit as “passion and perseverance for long-term goals”. 

All of the spouses interviewed showed incredible amounts of grit. They showed courage, passion and perseverance to reach for their goals even if they weren’t sure how it would work out in the end. Tonya Kuranda, a veteran and military spouse, manages a program through The University of Central Missouri that focuses on helping veterans transition out of the military through education.  She explains that throughout her career as an active duty member and now as a spouse she’s experienced multiple moves that interrupted her education. But she continued to focus on her goal and pushed through to earn her Bachelors and is now working towards her Masters.

Successful military spouses are resilient. They show extraordinary amounts of hope, tenacity and creativity in the face of challenges. However, they were also quick to point out that they were not perfect. There were times when they weren’t the greatest example. They admit they did not always handle change with grace but strived to do their best to radically accept the situation. They did not always have confidence and had many doubts along the way but reached out to their support networks. They made mistakes but learned to fail forward and gave themselves grace in the meantime. For some spouses, these characteristics did not come naturally but they were intentional about developing them.

Being a military spouse is hard. There’s a lot that happens in military family life that is out of our span of control. These characteristics are things that we can develop and strengthen. If having a career is important to you, it is possible. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. You and your spouse can both have successful careers.

Marinelle Reynolds has been featured in NBC News, Bustle and Elite Daily. Over the last 18 years she’s been a clinician and leader in the non-profit, military and corporate worlds. And has been a speaker for organizations like University of California, Berkeley and the United States Air Force.

She is an entrepreneur, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and unshakable optimist who specializes in helping high achievers let go of anxiety and perfectionism. She owns an online private practice that provides services in California, Georgia & Texas.

You can learn more about this military spouse and connect with her here https://eremedycounseling.com/ 

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By Marinelle Reynolds, LCSW

Being a military spouse is hard. It’s often referred to as the “hardest job in the military.” This is not meant to downplay an Active Duty member’s sacrifice. It’s a way to acknowledge and honor the sacrifices that spouses make during a military member’s career.

During an Active Duty career, many spouses have had to navigate the starts and stops of their own career, at times putting their dreams on hold. They’ve had to manage life as a single parent during long deployments. They’ve had to simultaneously help their children and themselves adjust to major life changes like moving to a new state or country while also grieving the relationships and jobs they left behind. Between the frequent moves, deployments and uncertainty that is inherent in military family life, it’s common that many spouses believe that a successful career is out of reach.

“Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, once said that “The only thing that is constant is change.””

While these challenges can sometimes feel unsurmountable and they are often unique to a military spouse, they are not hard stops. It is possible to have a career and family that thrives while living the active duty life. It doesn’t have to be a choice between your career or your spouses’.

I’ve had the privilege of interviewing about 50 military spouses with successful careers. They’ve each achieved career success while navigating the military family life. I’ve interviewed enlisted and officer spouses across the branches of the military and across different industries to see what common characteristics these spouses have. 

1.      They practice radical acceptance

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, once said that “The only thing that is constant is change.” In my interviews, this was a common philosophy of many spouses. Military life is full of constant change. Changes in duty stations, changes in jobs, and changes in friends and supports are common place. While moving was not always a positive experience, successful military spouses embraced change. Some spouses had children with special needs. Some had executive positions that they had fought hard to achieve. Other spouses had their own medical problems that made moving a bigger challenge. But, no matter the challenge, there was a radical acceptance. There was an acceptance of the inevitable-ness of change.

There was a common desire to focus on the things that are within a span of control instead of on how things “should” be.

Fighting reality creates suffering. Refusing to accept the truth, doesn’t make the situation go away and it doesn’t change the facts. While pain is an inevitable part of life, suffering is optional.  Moving and starting over is painful and we can feel like things are completely out of our control. But the choice to suffer is completely within our control. Ashley Grubbs, Licensed Professional Counselor and private practice owner points out “Once I accepted that moving doesn’t have to be super terrible and as long as I can be creative, things got easier”.

Accepting reality can be difficult, especially when the reality is painful.  Radical acceptance doesn’t mean that we deny the hardship or the pain of the situation. It means we acknowledge and accept what is. It’s letting go of how we think life “should” be. It’s accepting life as it is,
right now and focusing on the things that we do have control over.

Radical acceptance is a skill that requires practice. Spouses that are successful at balancing their careers with military family life frequently practice radical acceptance. They remind themselves that change is a constant part of reality. They allow themselves to experience disappointment, grief, and sadness without judgment. And, they focus on engaging in behaviors that move them forward such as applying for licensure or certification in a new state, exploring educational opportunities to strengthen job skills or advocating for resources and policies that support military spouse education and employment.

2.      They developed a strong sense of self that includes having a career

The sense of self is generally defined as the way we view our traits, beliefs and purpose within the world. Of the spouses interviewed, spouses that had successfully navigated careers and military family life had a strong sense of self which included having a career that gave them purpose.

Meghan Joss, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and group practice owner, states “being a working military spouse helps me feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself and helps me to focus on what will serve the greater purpose”.

This self- concept is often multi-dimensional and includes careers along with their roles within the family unit. Successful military spouses identified their careers, ability to financially contribute to the household, and their specific roles within a family as integral parts of their identity.

Vicki Batten, a dental hygienist states “I have a strong drive to have something to call my own, to be my own person. I am a wife and a mother and that’s important and I’m proud of my husband but I’m also more than what my husband does”.  

Marissa Lawton, marketing coach and entrepreneur adds “It’s important for me not to be dependent and to feel relevant. I want to be able to financially contribute by making a substantial salary and do it on my own terms. I want to continue doing something I’m passionate about and be an example for my daughters”.  

To be continued, with more spouses and examples at the end of Jan 2019.

 .

Marinelle Reynolds has been featured in NBC News, Bustle and Elite Daily. Over the last 18 years she’s been a clinician and leader in the non-profit, military and corporate worlds. And has been a speaker for organizations like University of California, Berkeley and the United States Air Force.

She is an entrepreneur, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and unshakable optimist who specializes in helping high achievers let go of anxiety and perfectionism. She owns an online private practice that provides services in California, Georgia & Texas.

You can learn more about this military spouse and connect with her here https://eremedycounseling.com/ 

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For those of us who are military spouses, over time, we’ve come to learn

to expect the unexpected,

to prepare for the worst and hope for the best,

or that the only constant in this life is change

Military life has a way of making you become comfortable with uncertainty.  And, while we may become accustomed to the certain, uncertain challenges military life will inevitably throw our way, many of us may find ourselves taking time to reflect on the challenges that 2018 brought us through.  

For many, like myself, taking the time to reflect on the unique challenges the military life throws our way is an opportunity to discover what these challenges mean, what we can learn from them and just maybe, how we might be able to discover a little bit of joy in the challenges on our military spouse journey.

As a military spouse of 14 years, I’ve become accustomed to the challenges of military life. But, just how does one find joy in these all-too familiar challenges:

frequent moves, separation from our spouse, wiping the tears from our children’s cheeks as they leave behind friends, reinventing our careers with each move, creating a new social support system at every duty station and continually adapting to new surroundings, cultures, and ways of life? 

Finding the joy in these challenges is more than just simply focusing on the positive. 

Finding the joy, I believe, involves being open to the lessons that these challenges can teach us.  Focusing on the joy provides us with reminders that all the sacrifices we make as a military spouse and family are worth it. Following are some of the lessons that have helped me find the joy in my own military spouse journey:

Being a military spouse has made me more empathic and understanding to the experience of others. Perhaps this is something that comes with age.  But, I believe my military spouse journey has made me a more understanding human being.  Everyone has their own unique story and challenges outside of the typical challenges military life presents.  That parent you see struggling with a toddler throwing a fit at the commissary or the less-than pleasant person you encounter at the BX---approach them with understanding.  Perhaps they just sent their service member off on a deployment, perhaps this is their first time being overseas around the holidays and they are struggling with being away from family, perhaps they have an ill family member back home and they cannot be there with them.  The point is, being a military spouse has taught me there is always so much more than meets the eye. 

What do we really have to lose by approaching everyone we meet with kindness and understanding? 

Being a military spouse has broadened my perspective, and that of my children’s, in many ways.  I can say without a doubt I would not have experienced so much of the world if my husband was not in the military.  My family and I have been fortunate enough to experience different cultures and visit many amazing places.  I treasure these experiences and feel so grateful that my children can have such culturally enriching experiences at young ages, experiences I know will make them open-minded and well-rounded adults.  Our lives have been so enriched by these experiences and have opened our eyes and hearts in many ways. 

Being a military spouse has given me invaluable professional skills.  Even though I have been fortunate enough to find some type of employment wherever we have lived, it hasn’t always been my “dream job.” Despite this, I have approached every job that I have had with an open mind and I always search for connections between jobs that I have had and how those connections work to my advantage as a counselor.  These varied experiences have made me well-rounded professionally.

Being a military spouse has allowed me to meet and form relationships with people from all over the world.  I have met some of the most amazing people along my military spouse journey.  Some I still talk to regularly, others occasionally.  People come into our lives for a reason, even if it is due in large part to military circumstances.  However, when it comes time so say the difficult “see you later” to those special people, you now have a bigger “circle” that likely spans continents.

Without the military life experience, it is highly unlikely that I would have people in my corner, in all corners of the world. 

The military spouse experience really does provide us with an opportunity to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.  We may not wear a uniform, but we sacrifice without a second thought.  We give up our ideal careers, leave behind friends and family, continually have family time interrupted even when our service member isn’t deployed, and are constantly pushed to the brink in dealing with uncertainty. 

Yet we wouldn’t change a thing.

As corny as it may sound, this sentiment was reiterated to me at my son’s recent football practice. As I was sitting there at his practice, watching the planes rumbling overhead through the sunset, it struck me that all of us military spouses and family members are indeed part of the larger mission at hand, in our own unique ways.

“The support we provide to our service member and the sacrifices that come with that indeed contribute to the mission.  Keep this in mind if you ever question what this is all for.  ”

These are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned along the way of my military spouse journey that I hold near and dear to my heart.   It can certainly be easy to get caught up in the hardships and the challenges that military life inevitably throws our way.  I challenge myself often, and I challenge you as well, to always search for the “why” and the “what” as you make your way on your own military spouse journey. The challenges presented to us along the way are not without purpose, that is, if we allow ourselves to be open to learning the lessons. 

Finding the lesson within the challenges is where the joy lies.   

Amber Noone, MA earned a Counseling Psychology degree from Bowie State.  She is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, National Certified Counselor and Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor and has worked as a Military Family Life Counselor for 3 ½ years.  Her husband is serving in the USAF, and she and her family are currently stationed at RAF Lakenheath, England.   When time allows, she and her family enjoy exploring their surroundings and discovering what the world has to offer.

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by Julie Costello, LMFT

Only 1 more month until this deployment is over.

Just 2 more classes, and I will graduate.

Can you feel the excitement? The anticipation?

But what happens when you use those words, the justs and the onlys, to limit yourself?

I was reading a post not too long ago where a person was making a great point, but then clarified that they were just an intern. So, were they telling me to discard their point since they weren’t experienced enough to make it?

“Here’s my voice and
here’s my message,
but I must qualify that
I’m only…just…”

It got me thinking about how often people sabotage themselves with their words; making themselves seem less than without even realizing it. I’ll admit, I was a bit shocked about how often I do it, both out loud and in my head.

I’m just a stay-at-home parent.

I’m only an intern.

The ever-dreaded “I’m just a dependent.”

The same words that can bring you the thrill of a countdown can also serve to sabotage your worth before you’ve even had a chance to show it.

That just and the only convey the message, “I’m not really convinced of my value and you shouldn’t be either.”

Why are you limiting yourself? Why are you telling people that you’re not good enough?

And while we’re on the subject of self-sabotaging words, can I please throw in a 5-letter one? How about “sorry”? How often do you find yourself apologizing for something that doesn’t warrant it, or feeling guilty because you might have inconvenienced someone by doing something like, I don’t know, asking a question? Allow me to give you an example of what this looks like.

Dear Someone More Qualified Than Me,

I’m sorry to bother you but I just wanted to ask a quick question
because I’m only someone with less experience.

Sincerely,
Someone Who’s Time is Less Valuable Than Yours
(which is why I’m apologizing for interrupting you with my question)"

So here’s my challenge to you (and to me). Stop using those 4 (and 5) letter words to limit yourself and your potential. Don’t be only a stay-at-home parent, BE a stay-at-home parent. Don’t be just an intern, BE an intern.

As we move through this season where many express what they are grateful for, be grateful for you, my friends.

Be grateful, and proud, and confident in who you are and where you are at this moment. Stop apologizing for being less than or less valuable, because I assure you, you are not.

Julie Costello is an Army spouse and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She graduated from Tarleton State University with a master’s degree in counseling psychology and is currently pursuing her PhD with Northcentral University, specializing in military family therapy.
Julie is passionate about educating the mental health community on the unique needs of military families.

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by Kasey King, MS

One of the hardest things to deal with, as a military spouse, are deployments. Not only are we often uprooted from our hometowns to places where we know no one, now we are left feeling alone. In the past eight years of my marriage, we have gone through four deployments, with one just finishing last month.

Our daughter, who is 8, has been present for all four, with the first starting at two months old; our son, the past two.

As the parent who is left home, I often struggle: hearing tears every night, constant requests for daddy and even things that daddy does (he’s the fun one). As the one who misses their companion, your days are also lonely, and your help is often limited.

After experiencing the deployment bug (as some spouses call it), I compiled a list of tips that helped me get through these emotionally draining deployments over the years.

Consistent Communication

I think at this point, we all know that communication is the foundation of successful relationships.

Communication is not just about speaking every day, but the way in which we do so.

How are we communicating?

How are we expressing our frustrations?

Are we limiting our arguments?

Deployment time is so stressful, and balancing schedules and times zone are equally exhausting, that most of our phone and video conversations should be positive. It’s easy to talk about the stressors that we are going through, but from experience, it also places a strain on the limited time available to talk.

There is a time to discuss the not-so-fun aspects of deployment, but discussing school and sports accomplishments and other great moments will help you get through the hard times.

When scheduling family video time, understand that couple time is equally important. Put time in your schedule for what I call “video dating.” I remember times when my husband and me would video chat, while sitting outside and having a drink.

It was a perfect time to check in on your relationship, create post deployment plans, etc.

Interactive Home Projects

Creating home projects during the deployment not only keeps the children engaged but also keeps them busy. There are tons of great ideas for care packages and deployment countdown activities on the internet.

Networking

Being a Navy spouse, the FRG committee has been a lifesaver during deployment season. This group of spouses come together once a month for fellowship and updates on deployments. They can also have creative activities for the children, with a certificate at the end of deployment. The committee is always available to assist spouses with whatever resources they need.

One thing we recently created is a secret battle buddy. Each spouse put down their address and listed of favorite things, and they all were equally dispersed to other spouses in the group. Each month the spouses would receive a care package on their doorstep, and right before the end of deployment, there was a party to meet your battle buddy. This was an amazing idea and kept the spouses uplifted during deployment.

Find out who is in your community and network with them. If it were not for my real life battle buddy, I would’ve had to quit my job.

Also, keep your family close and updated on (necessary) changes and any assistance that you need.

Remember, just because you are without your spouse, you do not have to be alone.

https://getmombalanced.com/15-minute-self-care/

One of the things therapists preach the most is self-care, and I am no different. With the many circumstances us spouses face during deployment, how are we taking care of ourselves?

Do you really know what self-care looks like? Self-care prevents burnout, limits stress and the negative ways in which we may treat others as a result.

I must admit, I struggled with self-care during this last deployment. I had only one friend I could rely on and she kept my kids 2-3 days a week. Therefore, I felt bad asking her to keep them on the weekend so I could be alone. How does that look, me trying to be alone and her having 4 kids?

I had to tell myself that even though leaving home would be ideal, it shouldn’t be the only way to take care of myself. I started working out in the garage after my daughter got on the bus. I’d wake up early or stay up late to have alone time. I read more and dedicated time to projects that were on my to-do list for a long time.

Remember, self-care could be just meditating, or hiking, as long as its stress free and fulfilling. No matter how much time you have, self-care is a must. Short on time? Check out the quick “15 minutes” list provided.

Whenever our loved ones are away, whether it be school, TDY, or deployment, our household dynamic shifts. We often go into a frenzy to make sure life is normal, but it is okay to not be normal. As spouses, our resiliency is one of the many things which makes us a unique group. This list helped me have smoother and less stressed deployments.

Let’s face it, all deployments have stressful moments, but utilizing some or all of these tips can make your days a little better.

How do you “keep it together”?

Pictures courtesy of Pinterest and www.getmombalanced.com

Kasey King is a Marriage and Family Therapy post grad, currently pursuing licensure. She is from Baton Rouge, La. but resides in Mississippi with her husband, who is a United States Navy Chief, and two children. As a military spouse and veteran, Kasey has the desire to help strengthen military families. Currently, Kasey is the lead family therapist at a Child Advocacy Center, and also has her own blog, Hopeful Inspirations, which focuses on marriage, families and relationships.

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By Marinelle Reynolds, LCSW

Every year, as the cold winter temperatures move in, thousands of geese take flight towards warmer weather.  They quickly form the familiar v-shaped pattern in the sky. One lead goose takes the front and the rest follow closely behind in two lines. If we think of leadership as the ability to influence and take a group of people from where they are to someplace better, as Tom Worsham (1992) points out, we can learn a lot from geese.

1.    They work together towards a common goal

When geese fly in the v-formation, the lead bird’s job is not to just tell the other birds where to fly.

The lead bird helps to reduce air drag so that the birds behind can fly for longer distances without expending more energy. In our teams, families, and communities our role as a leader is not just to guide people, but to help others succeed.

When we support our people and work towards a common goal we can go a lot farther, faster.

2.    It’s not about a title

Bill Gates said:“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”

For a lot of people, we think that being a leader means we have to have a title. We defer and relegate leadership to the title of Director, Manager, CEO, etc.  But if we look at how influential leaders like John Maxwell define leadership, we see that, “Leadership is influence nothing more, nothing less”.

We see that leadership is less about the title and more about what someone does. If we observe how geese designate the leader, we see that each bird is actually given a turn to lead the formation. For geese, it’s not a question of their position in the pecking order. Instead, it’s a matter of which bird has the ability in that moment to offer the support and guidance needed.

3. There is constant feedback

If you’ve ever been around geese, you know they are loud. They are constantly honking and squawking. They are always giving feedback. They are telling the goose ahead of them to hurry up or they are encouraging the goose behind to catch up. Feedback and encouragement are a vital part of team’s performance. We need feedback to get an accurate picture of how we’re doing. We need leaders to be brave enough to hold us accountable. We need leadership that is compassionate enough to remind us about the value we bring. When we don’t have feedback generally we will default to either making up negative stories about our performance. Or we will think we are doing fabulously when we are clearly failing. Feedback is necessary for growth in all areas of our life.

4.    They share the workload

While geese are flying in the v-formation, it’s constantly shifting and changing. You see that the birds in the flock take turns as lead. As one bird moves to the front, they replace the lead bird. That bird then moves to the back where they can get some rest. The flock evenly distributes the workload so that the bulk of the work is not rested on any one bird’s shoulders. When leading it’s important that there’s an understanding that the work will be shared. We acknowledge a sense of interconnectivity. A place where no one person is more important than another. It allows us to reach our destination together.

5.    They have each other’s back

Geese have a “no bird left behind” mentality. If one bird gets sick or can’t fly, two birds actually fall out of formation to stay with the sick bird. They stay with their bird buddy until they’re ready to fly again… together. Innovation takes a brave spirit. As Theodore Roosevelt once said “there is no effort without error and shortcomings”.

If we’re going to do something great in this world, we will fall. As leaders, we need to create safe environments where we can fail forward, learn from our mistakes and rise again. We need to create environments where we have each other’s backs and we encourage each other to get back up and fly.

Leadership is not just for the birds.  We are all leaders. As clinicians, we are charged with leading individuals, couples, and families towards healing. As parents, we are responsible for leading our families towards fulfilling their potential. As humans, we are called to lead our communities towards understanding.  Leadership is not about the title. It’s about being invested, seeing the potential in others and empowering those around you to rise.

Marinelle Reynolds has been featured in NBC News, Bustle and Elite Daily. Over the last 18 years she’s been a clinician and leader in the non-profit, military and corporate worlds. And has been a speaker for organizations like University of California, Berkeley and the United States Air Force.

She is an entrepreneur, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and unshakable optimist who specializes in helping high achievers let go of anxiety and perfectionism. She owns an online private practice that provides services in California, Georgia & Texas.

You can learn more about this military spouse and connect with her here https://eremedycounseling.com/ 

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By Irene Summers Temple

As a military spouse, I move frequently.

And, as a pathological extrovert, making new friends is a necessity.

When I meet people, it amazes me the assumptions they make about my age, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, income, and level of education. Some of the assumptions they make are right, but often they miss the mark.

I am not exempt from making these assumptions. When my spouse speaks of his superior officers, I tend to make two assumptions; 1 - in my mind they are male, and 2 - they are married. Although it is statistically likely, this is something that is always changing and
I would prefer to think and speak more inclusively.

It’s natural for us to categorize people, using mental shortcuts to understand others. But, there is value in challenging those automatic assumptions.

When we learn to catch ourselves in the act of assuming and automatically categorizing, we are more likely to actually see the person in front of us, not a projection of our own beliefs. One way we can start doing this, is to use more inclusive language.

“Instead of assuming we know who someone is and how they identify,
we just admit to ourselves that
we don’t, and that’s okay. ”

What I mean by inclusive language is saying things in a slightly different way, that conveys the same message but removes assumptions about gender, sexuality, ability, or other identifying characteristics.

Ways I use inclusive language when I meet new people:

Marital status - Instead of meeting someone new and asking questions like, “Are you married?” or “When will I meet your wife/husband?” I try to say things like, “Do you have a partner?” and “When will I meet them?” 

Family structure - When my kiddos have friends over, I find myself in conversation with 6-year-olds or their parents. In learning more about their families, I ask questions like “Do you have any siblings?”  

Education level - Unless I need to know, I don’t ask people about their education. I’m used to talking (and hopefully not bragging) about my education, but I realize that it’s not important to most people and can make people feel condescended to. So, unless other people bring it up, or it’s clearly relevant to the conversation, I don’t ask. I also don’t assume that everyone went to college. 

Gender identity - When I introduce myself to new clients at work I say, “Hi, I’m Dr. Summers Temple. You can call me Irene. I use the pronouns she/her/hers.”

When I tell another person my pronouns, it communicates to them that I am open to however they identify. We don’t know anyone’s gender identity (another topic for another day) until they tell us. So, get comfortable with using people’s names instead of gendered pronouns. Or use they/them/theirs until someone corrects you.

Getting comfortable with the singular “they” is challenging, but it’s worth it. 

Relationship status/Sexual orientation - Instead of asking someone, “Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?” I say things like “Are you dating/seeing anyone?”

I also ask about partners, because not everyone who is in a committed relationship is married.

To be most inclusive, changing the question all together to “Are you in a romantic relationship?” allows for individuals in any form of relationship, including polyamorous relationships to feel seen and welcome in the conversation. 

When we use more inclusive language, we broaden the boundaries of our community. We welcome more people in and communicate that there is space for everyone.

Feeling welcome helps us to feel more at home. And, moving and constantly starting over makes feeling at home vital to thriving in the military spouse life.

Irene Summers Temple is an Air Force spouse and a licensed psychologist. She graduated from Indiana University with a PhD in Counseling Psychology and now owns and operates a private practice in Rapid City, South Dakota. She specializes in multicultural counseling for people of color and those who identify as LGBTQ. She also provides consultation and trainings for individuals, groups, and organizations looking to explore their own identities and those seeking to provide more LGBTQ affirming customer/patient care. Learn more about Irene at https://www.irenestphd.com/.

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By Lori Derr

Being a mental health therapist can be both rewarding and stressful all at the same time. As therapists, we tend to be in tune with and capable of helping our clients deal with stress, but it is often a different story when it comes to identifying and managing our own stress.

Being able to manage our own stress helps us be more present with our clients. Here are
three ways that I have found to manage stress throughout the workday.

Deep Breathing

Breathing is an automatic process that our body does without our brain needing to think about it.

How often do you stop and pay attention to your breath? How often do you focus on how your breath feels as it moves in and out of your body?

Deep breathing is a technique that mental health therapists, yoga instructors, and massage therapists often teach to their clients as a way to help them regulate and be mindful, but how often do we use the technique ourselves?

Take time throughout your day to practice deep breathing. There are several apps that will send you reminders and will also guide you through breathing techniques. Also, you can simply place one hand on your belly and the other on your heart as you practice inhaling, feeling the chest and abdomen rise, pause between the inhale and exhale, and then focusing on exhaling- releasing the air out of the lungs and abdomen.

Yoga

Hours of sitting can take a toll on the body and leave you feeling sore. To combat this, make sure to take short breaks throughout the day to practice some simple yoga poses. A few of my favorite poses to incorporate throughout my day are cat/cow, modified sun salutations,
and spinal twist. These poses can be modified to be practiced ANYWHERE.

Yoga has helped me

connect with myself and be mindful of how I’m feeling. When I am stressed out or overwhelmed, Yoga keeps me grounded and reminds of what is truly important.

Modified Cat Pose (Marjaryasana) - Begin by sitting up tall in your chair, lengthening the
spine, hands placed on your thighs. Lift the tailbone towards the back of your head as you bring your head back looking up toward the ceiling. Your belly should be extended and heart lifted toward the ceiling. Elbows should be drawing back as you squeeze the shoulder blades together.

Modified Cow Pose (Bitilasana) - From cat pose round out the spine, arching the back,
tucking the tailbone and tucking the chin in toward the chest. Your body should look like a C shape. Arms will come forward as the shoulders round in toward the front of the body.

Modified Sun Salutations - Start in a standing position. Inhale as you raise your arms
overhead bringing the palms of the hands together above your head. From here, do a slight back bend. On the exhale, bring the hands to heart center and hinge forward at the hips into a forward fold position. Hands may come to the knees, shins, or floor. Inhale back to standing and repeat the sequence a few times to get the body loosened up and the blood flowing.

Spinal Twist - This pose can be done from a sitting or standing position. Begin by
lengthening the spine, on the inhale stretch the arms overhead and, on the exhale, twist the trunk of the body so the chest is facing one side as you lower the arms back down. On the next inhalation, raise the arms overhead again as you turn to the opposite direction.

Being Mindful and Reflective

Take time in your day to check-in with yourself and see how you are feeling, both physically and mentally. Check your physical comfort level by identifying what is going on in your body at that time.

Perhaps you are feeling restless or uncomfortable from hours of sitting or maybe you need to recharge your energy level with a drink or snack.

Be mindful of what your body is trying to tell you about what it needs.

Check in with your emotions as well.

As a child therapist, I am often teaching/modeling for children and parents emotional  regulation skills. One of the first steps in emotional regulation is being able to identify how you are feeling. Practice self-reflection on a regular basis, like every day, to identify your feelings so you can be sure that your emotional needs are being met.

Holding space for clients can be difficult when they are sharing traumatic stories. It is CRUCIAL that we are able to identify how we have been affected and to learn skills to help ourselves process the information and regulate our own responses.

These are just a few basic techniques to help you “take care of the therapist,” so the therapist can take care of the clients.

Lori Derr graduated with a Master of Social Work degree from New Mexico State University. Lori provides individual, family, and group counseling. She has training in Child-Parent Psychotherapy, Infant Mental Health, Circle of Security, Trauma, and is currently working on becoming a Registered Play Therapist. Lori is also a Licensed Massage Therapist and recently became a Registered Yoga Teacher.

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