The Department of Veterans Affairs is offering chaplains and behavioral health specialists training to incorporate an innovative, brief skills-building program into their efforts to help military and Veteran couples strengthen their relationships with each other. Funding from the Department of Veteran Affairs Patient-Centered Care and Cultural Transformation Initiative will enable VA and Department of Defense (DoD) professionals to participate in intensive training programs this summer in San Diego, California, Indianapolis, Indiana, and Hampton, Virginia.
The four-day professional trainings are being provided by the nonprofit PAIRS Foundation, an industry leader in marriage and relationship education based in Weston, Florida. PAIRS collaboration with VA chaplains and others through the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia and the San Diego VA Healthcare System has shown promising results providing effective, supportive services for Veteran families. In 2009, the program was recognized by the VA as “Best Practice in Marriage Enrichment.”
VA chaplains have been pleased with the program’s early results.
“PAIRS is changing the lives of returning combat veterans and their spouses,” said Chaplain Ron Craddock, Chief of Chaplain Services at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta.
San Diego Chief Chaplain Dick Millspaugh agrees, saying the program delivers “a safe, loving environment to help you build even more loving relationships to those you care about with tools you can use every day.”
Paul Peluso, Ph.D., Associate Professor at Florida Atlantic University, has analyzed findings from thousands of participants in similar brief PAIRS programs that took place in South Florida. In 2006, PAIRS Foundation received a multi-year, $5 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, to provide free classes to couples, singles and high school students in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
“PAIRS participants demonstrate significant attitude change about their relationship following their participation in the program at six and twelve months post treatment,” Dr. Peluso found. “Both ‘distressed’ and ‘non-distressed’ participants have significant, positive (and persistent) changes in their attitude toward their partner,” he reported.
Through four-day professional trainings in San Diego (August 9-12), Indianapolis (August 29-September 1), and Hampton (September 19-22), VA and DoD leaders will learn to deliver intensive, research-based weekend retreats for military and Veteran couples along with skills to strengthen their individual work with returning OEF/OIF servicemen and women.
Funding from the Rabbi Morris Gordon Endowment Fund is also making it possible for a limited number of non-VA clergy involved in serving Veteran and military couples in California, Indiana, and Virginia to participate.