Program Brings Together Chaplains and Behavioral Health Professionals in Innovative, Evidence-Based Approach to Strengthening Veteran Marriages
NEW YORK — The Department of Veterans Affairs is expanding training for VA Chaplains and Behavioral Health professionals to help Veterans learn evidence-based skills for improving interpersonal communication, emotional understanding and expression, and healthy conflict resolution.
A national grant from VA’s Patient-Centered Care and Cultural Transformation Initiative is funding trainings across the country this summer. The first summer training took place at the St. Albans VA Medical Center in Queens, New York last week.
Father Andrew Sioleti, Chief of Chaplain Services at the St. Albans VA hosted the training. Father Sioleti said the experience was “an eye opener” that provided tools that can benefit all professionals.
Geniva Hudson, a registered nurse at the St. Albans VA and wife of a U.S. Marine, said her life “is enriched forever from the training.”
Thirty VA Chaplains and Behavioral Health specialists from the Greater New York area participated in the intensive four-day training, including Dr. Heather Juby, a Psychologist from the Northport VA Medical Center.
“The PAIRS [training] is challenging, enlightening and fun,” Dr. Juby said. “Prepare to bring your relationship to a whole new level.”
Social Worker Linda Schwarzmann of the Manhattan VA Medical Center said the four days “flew by.”
“I have been to many trainings and this was one of the best,” Schwarzmann said. “It will help me understand myself, my styles of communication, and how they have impacted my relationships.”
Heather Walczuk, also a Social Worker at the Manhattan VA, said the training will strengthen her ability to help Veterans “express themselves and reconnect with their families.”
St. Albans Chaplain Michael Trachtenberg agreed, saying he “would encourage any Veteran and spouse to participate.”
“Get ready for the best change in [your] life,” said Milagros Andino, a VA EEO Specialist. “If they commit to the process, [Veterans] will gain an invaluable tool for their lives,” she added.
The training program expands on efforts begun in 2008 by the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, where Chaplain Ron Craddock, Chief of Chaplain Services, was looking for better ways of helping returning OEF/OIF Veteran couples impacted by combat deployment. In 2009, the program, developed by the nonprofit PAIRS Foundation in Hollywood, Florida, was recognized as a VA Best Practice.
Impressed with the results in Augusta, Chaplain Dick Millspaugh, Chief of Chaplain Services at the San Diego VA Health Care System, sponsored a PAIRS professional training in San Diego through funding from the VA’s Patient-Centered Care and Cultural Transformation Initiative. Funding has now been provided by the Initiative for three consecutive years, resulting in training of nearly 300 VA Chaplains and Behavioral Health specialists from 25 VA sites nationwide.
Upcoming PAIRS Certification Trainings are scheduled for San Antonio, Indianapolis, San Diego, and Hampton. More information is available online at vasdhs.pairs.com or by contacting Chaplain Dick Millspaugh.