By Rachel Dorman, MS & Heidi Radunovich, PhD
Reintegration to civilian life can be a difficult process for veterans returning from deployment. It is important for mental health care providers to be aware of the difficult process veterans may face during their transition back to civilian life and how to help veterans make a smooth transition. Koenig, Maguen, Monroy, Mayott, and Seal (2014) conducted a study on recently returned veterans to learn more about reintegration into civilian life.The researchers sought to gain insight into veterans’ experiences transitioning from military to civilian life through interview-based qualitative research. The study included 31 veteran participants who had returned from deployment within two years of the study. The researchers collected data through a semi-structured interview with eligible participants. The researchers reported that none of the veterans returned home from deployment unchanged. Veterans reported difficulty transitioning back to a once familiar civilian life. Through the data collected, the researchers categorized veterans’ struggles of reintegration into three categories: intrapersonal, professional and education, or interpersonal. The researchers described veterans as having difficulty transitioning on an intrapersonal level when a veteran reported difficulty in a civilian life activity that evoked wartime deployment. For example, some participants reported difficulty driving as a civilian because they would catch themselves vigilantly scanning for potential IEDs on the road. The researchers also found veterans struggled with reintegration on a professional and educational level. The researchers reported that some veterans returning to their civilian profession or studies found the work to be dissatisfying and slow paced. The veterans also expressed difficulty transitioning from working in a close unit during deployment to a workplace with little camaraderie. The last category identified was interpersonal difficulties. The veterans reported that their physical separation, due to deployment, resulted in gaps in once familiar relationships. The researchers reported veterans felt their physical separation had caused emotional separation in once close relationships due to missing life events while deployed. Veterans reported struggling with isolation and reconnecting with prior relationships. Practitioners are encouraged to help veterans integrate in all three categories to promote a smooth transition. The researchers provide a module of questions that can help practitioners facilitate healthy communication within all three domains, and stress the importance of helping veterans build coping strategies that will help foster growth through the reintegration process. For more information about helping veterans and their families after deployment visit some of MFLN’s previous blogs here and here. Also, check out this MFLN webinar: Understanding the Outdoor Recreation Restoration Program Leader as Caregiver in Returning Veterans!
Koenig, C., Maguen, S., Monroy, J., Mayott, L., & Seal, K. (2014). Facilitating culture-centered communication between health care providers and veterans transitioning from military deployment to civilian life. Patient Education and Counseling, 95(3), p. 414 – 420. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pec.2014.03.016
This post was written by Rachel Dorman, M.S. and Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, You Tube, and on LinkedIn.