Exploring the Impact of Moral Injury on Military Families: Follow- Up Q&A with Dr. Brock

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Dr. Rita Brock
was the presenter for the 4th and final session of our 2016 Virtual Learning Event. Session 4, entitled Exploring the Impact of Moral Injuries on Military Families provided insight and knowledge in helping guide work surrounding this important topic. At the end of the webinar, some of the participants had lingering questions for Dr. Brock. Below, we have provided the questions and answers.

Q: You mentioned a resource throughout the webinar on helping children through deployment. Would you mind sharing that with us?
A: This Guide to Deployment for Families can be found under resources for congregations here.

Q: Do we know why moral injury affects some, but not everyone? Is the research pointing to anything there?
A: There are no data on moral injury per se that I know of. However, studies show that a previous history of trauma (esp. PTSD) makes a person more susceptible to further trauma. Since PTSD is not a fear-based trauma, it is not clear whether one instance of moral injury would make one more susceptible to another. It might be different for moral injury: if a person had been able to process a morally injurious experience and begin recovering, he or she might have greater resilience for handling future incidences.

Here is one study:
Harris, J.I., Erbes., C.R., Engdahl., B.E., Thuras, P., Murray-Swank, N, Grace, D., Ogden, H., Olson, R.H.A., Winskowski, A.M., Bacon, R., Malec, C., Campion, K., & Le, TuVan (2011). The effectiveness of a trauma-focused, spiritually integrated intervention for veterans exposed to trauma. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 67, 1-14.

Q: Do you have suggestions for preventative strategies, if there are any?
A: The only person who is inoculated against moral injury is a sociopath. As to normal people with moral consciences, moral injury is related to a number of factors, such as the developmental stage of young adults and their inability to handle moral ambiguity, that may be involved. Jonathan Shay believes that military unit cohesion has protective value against isolation and that better leadership in the command structures also can prevent a sense of feeling betrayed. One of the other student projects (which we hope to have posted on our resources website by the end of October), was a youth minister guide for young adults considering military service. It is based on input from a veteran in his congregation who suggested that having a clear sense of purpose for enlisting was important to not getting lost and disoriented in service.
Helping people stay in touch with their humanity in inhuman conditions is crucial, a role military chaplains play, so training chaplains in understanding moral injury is also important. I’ve been working with chaplains on this since we opened in 2012, and Brite includes a course on moral injury in our military chaplain certification program.

Q: You mentioned Trauma Release Exercises. Do you have a resource that you would like for us to share for that? A website or a particular person?
A: Here are two videos that explain and demonstrate how and why it works on trauma:

Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE)
TRE® Tension, Stress, Trauma Release A Revolutionary Way To Feel Better

We use Michael-Phap Nguyen-Uyen, a US Marine veteran and Zen teacher, at our events.

Here is his story.

I think there is value-added because he uses mindfulness meditation practices with the TRE process. There is MRI research on meditation and its value to restoring thinking capacity. But there are many teachers of TRE.
I have downloaded the TRE phone app, which guides me through the process. I find it a useful way to relax and release stress from work.

Q: You mentioned a friend of yours, Lisa Dunster. Do you have more information on her story?
A: Here are some sources about her. She’s a National Guard veteran, a high school English teacher, and a remarkable person. This story is about how she almost slit her husband’s throat.

This is about the retreat program she runs for veterans and families. After becoming a speaker for us, she added moral injury into the work they do and regularly has a chaplain create programs for her retreats.

This is one of her public talks about her military experience. She always says something new and important, and I skype her into my classes.

If you were unable to participate in VLE 4: Exploring the Impact of Moral Injury on Military Families or any of the other 2016 VLE sessions of Strengthening the Family CORE, they are all available for archived viewing.

This post was written by Bari Sobelson, MS, LMFT, the social media and programming specialist for the MFLN Family Development Team. The Family Development team aims to support the development of professionals working with military families.  Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network Family Development team on our websiteFacebook, and Twitter.

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