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17 Sep 2021


Many helping professionals work with military families in a variety of capacities, including education, prevention and intervention programming, and therapy services. As a helping professional, it can be difficult to know what the latest research recommends, as research can be difficult to access due to costs associated with it and the time it takes to interpret each study’s findings. Additionally, knowing what the general consensus is across the body of research on military family well-being may be hard to interpret by only reading a few studies. Recognizing these challenges, Drs. Lucier-Greer, O’Neal, and Mancini shared some insight on how military family science research could be and is currently being practically applied for helping professionals who work with military families. To read more about their research, explore this brief summary highlighting the key findings from their work.

Families are continually changing

Military families often experience similar stressors repeatedly, such as deployment and relocation. Although a family might experience the same stressor multiple times, they experience these at different points within family life. For example, a family might experience their first deployment when a child is very young, which might influence how they manage child care or parenting in that context. The same family might experience another deployment when their child is an adolescent, which might influence roles and responsibilities within the family that a much younger child would not be able to help with (such as household chores) and parenting may look very different at this age. This could present new challenges with each deployment or relocation. Helping professionals need to remember how families change over time even when events may seem similar.

Military families are first and foremost families

Although military families face unique challenges associated with military life, including relocations and separations, they also experience the typical challenges related to family life. For example, military families have to manage effective parenting and communication between family members. These typical family challenges often look similar across many types of families, including civilian and military families. When working with military families, helping professionals may get caught in overly-focusing on particular military challenges and forget to address core family issues.Helping professionals must remember that typical family challenges are important for military families, even in the face of unique military stressors.

Incorporating all family members

Many programs available to military families are designed for service members and/or their civilian partners to participate in, often with the intention of impacting the whole family system. Additionally, many programs are available for military-connected children to participate in to enhance their well-being. Although both of these programs are important to of fer, there are fewer opportunities for families to participate together in education, programs, or therapy services. Including all family members in the programs and services can provide opportunities to address difficulties with everyone involved, such as communication. Offering education, programs, or therapy services that all family members can participate in together can enhance the overall well-being of the family in a comprehensive way.

Using resources for learning about research

Using resources designed to make learning research easier can help professionals take in necessary findings more efficiently to incorporate them into their practice. For example, Military REACH is a free resource that offers brief summaries that highlight key findings and implications for helping professionals. This can help directly connect research findings to everyday practice for working with military families. Although Military REACH provides many brief summaries for the most recent research, helping professionals may f ind a research article of interest that they would like to read, but do not have access to. Oftentimes, it is possible to request access to a research study by emailing the listed corresponding author. Although researchers cannot share the copyrighted, published version, many are allowed to share the original document of their article at no cost to you. A simple email could provide access to an article of interest, and many authors are excited for people to read their research and are happy to share their work.

Serving military families through education, programming, and therapy services is an important avenue for families to feel prepared to manage the challenges associated with military life. Being aware of research-informed suggestions and finding ways to implement them in everyday practice may continue to enhance work with military families to improve their well-being.

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