VA Marriage Counselors: How Can They Help?

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated August 9, 2023by Regain Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

VA marriage counselors can help veterans and their partners cope with mental health challenges and other issues negatively impacting their marriages. For instance, they may help with PTSD, anxiety, depression, stress, readjustment, and more. While Veterans Affairs often provides various mental health and marriage counseling services, you may also benefit from online marriage therapy.

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Marriage Counseling Can Help You Through The Hard Times.

Common Relationship Issues And How Counseling Can Help Veterans

If you are currently looking for the nearest marriage counseling for veterans, the good news is that you are already making excellent progress. Some people may not spot major issues until there is considerable damage, or they may choose to avoid their problems altogether. This willingness and desire to make changes and get the help you and your spouse need can help you get the most out of marriage counseling.

To further understand why help for veteran couples can be such an important aspect of repairing your marriage and how some veterans’ issues in relationships may differ, it can be necessary to closely examine veterans’ issues and how they can impact couples.  In the sections listed below, we will review why marriages involving military services and veterans tend to experience additional strain and aim to help you identify some of your issues in the process.

Understanding PTSD And Its Effects On Marital Stress And Mental Health

One of the most common mental disorders for veterans that can impact the whole family is PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD may reveal itself in several ways that can include avoiding certain triggers, reliving traumatic experiences, and experiencing negative thoughts and emotions that may result in acting out or lashing out at others.

While it can be hard enough to cope with on your own, the impact of PTSD can often spread to the rest of the family and can be especially damaging to the spouse of the veteran. Besides picking up the habits of the individual who is living with PTSD and attempting to cope with a relationship that may be unstable and frightening at times, it has also been found that spouses can be more likely to develop their own mental health issues.

One study published in the New England Journal of Medicine analyzed the medical records of approximately 250,000 spouses of soldiers who had been deployed to areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003 and 2006, finding that prolonged and multiple deployments generally increased the risk of spouses developing anxious and depressive symptoms. 

It should be mentioned that PTSD is not the only issue that partners can experience when it comes to veteran relationships. 

Issues From Deployment And Return

Another major problem that veteran couples can experience is the impact of deployment. When one half of the relationship is called away to active duty, their spouse is usually left to keep up the responsibilities of daily life, which can have consequences. From taking care of children to managing finances, spouses may feel more alone in their lives and relationships, which can lead to stress, emotional disconnection, anger, depression, and other mental health problems.

Even the return from deployment may not remedy the issues experienced by the spouse during the duration of the separation. Typically, spouses who are awaiting the arrival of their partner expect the reunion to be amazing. However, this might not always be the case. Both the veteran and their spouse may need to become accustomed to the changes that occurred during deployment and may require readjustment counseling.

Veterans may have developed mental health issues that can make it difficult to go back to daily life and meet the expectations set by their spouses. On the other hand, spouses may have thought that the return home would signify less responsibility and a return to “normal.” The shifted expectations and experiences of both individuals may cause friction, but therapy can be very helpful in allowing both parties to evaluate the current issues affecting their daily lives until they both find a plan that meets their needs.

How Does Marriage Counseling Help Veterans’ Relationship Issues?

Following the return from deployment, other issues can arise that may have the potential to stress a relationship. For example, financial and employment issues are two very common factors that can play into veteran problems. Depending on the situation, certain relationships may experience financial challenges, and some veterans may have issues finding employment after they return from deployment.

Some common marriage problems can include disrespecting boundaries, emotional or physical infidelity, a lack of communication, a lack of sexual intimacy, a lack of appreciation and romance, and a lack of trust. Fortunately, VA counseling can connect experienced mental health professionals with couples to guide them through any issues they may be experiencing.

Online Marriage Counseling For Veterans

Another option for veterans seeking marriage counseling may be online therapy, where it can be possible to connect with a licensed mental health professional from anywhere with a stable internet connection. This can even enable you and your spouse to attend therapy sessions together when you are not in the same physical location. Online therapy can address issues like stress, PTSD, readjustment, and others that may be affecting your marriage.

As this study explains, online couples therapy can be effective, and the participants reported that the experience was positive and beneficial, even though they initially had doubts as to whether virtual counseling would be as effective as traditional in-office therapy. The participants also noted that they were able to form strong therapeutic alliances with their therapists.

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Marriage Counseling Can Help You Through The Hard Times.

Takeaway

Veterans Affairs marriage counselors can help veterans and their partners with a variety of issues ranging from stress and anxiety to depression, PTSD, marriage troubles, and more. They can also help veterans and their spouses readjust to life after returning from deployment. Although VA marriage counseling can be an excellent resource, you may also wish to consider online therapy as a convenient alternative.

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