Building Better Relationships: Community Circles Strength At Home
Parrt of what can make Joining Forces a successful initiative is sharing information and experiences. There are great organizations and individuals around the country who have helpful ideas and tips to share.
Risa J. Greendlinger is the Director of Veterans Projects at the National Center on Family Homelessness, a leader in preventing and ending veteran homelessness particularly in the female veteran family population. They develop and provide innovative online resources, training, technical assistance, project management and research. Greendlinger shared experience from the National Center on Family Homelessness:
Community Circles Strength At Home seeks to build stronger relationships on the home front for returning veterans and their families by pairing veterans with a romantic partner, parent, sibling or a friend to support a stable transition into civilian life. The intervention provides practical tools to help veterans or returning service members and their families (and friends) adjust after the unique stresses associated with deployment or separation from service.
The program is structured around free two-hour sessions that meet weekly for 10 weeks. Each two-hour session includes brief instructional materials; group activities to discuss, learn and practice new behaviors; and flexible time to solve ongoing problems, explore charge efforts and build group cohesion.
Sessions focus on PTSD and relationship issues, conflict management, improving communication skills, and maintaining progress. Group members complete practice exercises to reinforce skills and are given “homework” to consolidate information learned in their groups. Assignments also involve intimacy enhancing exercises such as self-monitoring of positive relationship behaviors.
Strength At Home also seeks to prevent interpersonal violence (IPV) within veteran families, which is largely attributed to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and/or to prior history of trauma. Almost two-thirds of Strength At Home participants screened positive for PTSD or TBI prior to entering the program.
“I finally spoke to my kids for the first time in three years,” said one program participant. “I didn’t know what to say before I learned those communication skills.” All program participants say they learned valuable communication and coping skills, and most report the program has helped their relationships.
Another veteran told us, “My wife and I were literally a moment away from divorcing before this program. We didn’t think it was possible to save our marriage, but our new communication skills are helping us to work out our issues.”
Strength At Home may help to improve other services to veterans and military families. Preliminary results from the program indicate a decrease in depression symptoms and interpersonal violence. Based in the Central Valley of California, Strength At Home is a project of The National Center on Family Homelessness in partnership with the National Center for PTSD. It is funded by the Blue Shield of California Foundation.
Darienne Page is Assistant Director of the Office of Public Engagement.