The National Guard and Reserves: Are their Needs Different from Active Duty?

Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD  

Unlike active duty members of the military, who tend to be organized by base, the National Guard and Reserve members are widely dispersed across the U.S., away from their assigned military base, and may live in a community that may not be familiar with military culture and the challenges they face. In a recent article published in Clinical Child & Family Psychological Review, authors Murphy and Fairbank (2013) review the challenges that are specific to members of the National Guard and Reserves, and emerging evidence-based programs that are becoming available to better serve military families living in communities located away from military bases. Challenges important to families living away from a military community include a wide range of environmental and individual barriers:

Table
Table adapted from Murphy and Fairbank (2013)

To address the need for support and improve services for community dwelling military families, a number of programs or interventions have been developed. These programs have either been developed specifically to address the needs of military families or have been adapted from work for civilian families. Three potential solutions listed here are highlighted here:

Co-locating health and mental health services

By providing mental health services within a health care setting, stigma for seeking treatment is reduced. Furthermore, it allows for health care and mental health care to be better coordinated, leading to better patient care. This is beneficial not only for military members and their families, but also for the community at large.

Families Over Coming Under Stress (FOCUS) Resiliency Training (Beardslee, 2013)

Today, FOCUS is better designed to serve families that have limited access to clinicians familiar with military families. Two applications, Self-Administered Family Check-in and FOCUS World, are web-based, and available to community dwelling military members (and others). The self-administered check-in offers standardized psychological health and family resilience screening with real-time feedback. FOCUS World is an interactive family narrative. The FOCUS World application allows the user to select a character, i.e. Mom, Dad, provides for individual family members to log significant family events, thoughts and feelings around those events, and even pictures that are displayed on a high-tech timeline. To play in FOCUS World, you can create an account as a clinician.

Family with newborn baby
[Flickr, Looking Good for Need by Tina Lawson, CC BY-ND 2.0] Retrieved on September 17, 2015
The Military Child Education Coalition

The Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) (2012) has a number of resources that are available to military families through the Internet. Resources provided include: Child advocacy training materials, peer-to-peer support for children, news, and other education related material.

Considerations when working with National Guard and Reserve families

  • Do you ask your clients “have you, or anyone in your family ever served in the military?” This not only gathers critical information about the client, but also informs the client that you are culturally sensitive and that your practice is military informed.
  • If this is the case for you, acknowledge to yourself and your client that your knowledge and understanding of the military and military culture is limited.
  • If the client has recently been deployed, don’t assume that a recent deployment is the reason for the current help-seeking situation. While deployment is often a stressor, it may or may not play a role in the problem to be addressed.

The National Guard and Reserves play a critical role in today’s U. S. military. Recent developments in care for military members and their families located away from bases offer an opportunity for clinicians to utilize new evidence-based strategies and Internet-based technology for the best care of this important element of the military.

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