Over the past decades and through much exposure to war torn nations and traumatic events, Canadian Armed Forces personnel have been returning home with ever increasing incidences of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, and other Operational Stress Injuries (OSI). This has led to the development of new treatment research as well as the instigation of new resources both clinical and non-clinical to aid the suffering veteran to allow them to return to a new life either still serving in the military, or in the civilian world.
Typically, the injured veteran is treated, often successfully, with many and varying clinical resources available. However, despite the successes with individual treatment, there has been an essential component of adjustment to renewed life left out of the mix- the family!
The importance of the health of the family relative to the path of healing for the injured veteran has, while acknowledged in the literature and in the rhetoric of professional communities striving to serve veterans, has largely been ignored in terms of service delivery and programming; this must change.
Veterans are all part of a family in one sense or another and to treat them for PTSD in isolation of the family is counter intuitive given the relative importance of relationships to the human experience. Veterans injured with PTSD bring into the home their anxiety, anger, hyper vigilance, shame, fear and maladaptive behaviours that frequently bring serious impact upon family members.
COPE includes the spouse or partner as part of the learning and treatment protocol. During the five day Phase One of the COPE Program, five couples managing PTSD will be gathered together to work on their relationships as a group; they will learn as a community. The idea is to use this community approach to help couples to recognize they are not alone in this fight; they can all get well together and learn from each other through this process. We can no longer ignore the fact that veterans need their families to get better and the families need support to help them deal with the challenges of living with PTSD in the home.
The COPE Program Phase Two offers an ongoing family coaching process that will commence as the Phase One retreat ends. The coaching aspect of COPE provided by Moving the Human Spirit will extends for six months and will involve three sessions per month for the duration conducted via telephone or Skype contact. The intent of Phase Two of COPE is to ensure the new skills and techniques learned during Phase One are sustained thus giving the couple the greatest chance at success with their relationships over the long term. Each couple will also be encouraged to sustain the relationships created during Phase One of COPE to provide ongoing peer support through Phase Two. Couples will soon realize that learning together and helping other couples will play a significant role in their own journey back to a good healthy relationship. They will learn to fight PTSD as a team.
The COPE Program is the brain child of LCol (retired) Chris Linford and his wife Kathryn. They have worked hard at gathering the right group of stakeholders to the table to make the COPE Program a reality. Chris served 33 years in the Canadian Armed Forces and has battled PTSD since 1994 after his deployment to Rwanda. Kathryn has also been significantly impacted by his PTSD as well their three children, Victor, Jeffrey and Jennifer.
They discovered during Chris' therapy in 2011 after his return from Afghanistan that the more their relationship improved, the better his personal health became as well as the health of his family. Chris had always believed that his PTSD was simply his issue and it had no impact upon his family. He started to understand that his PTSD had not only impacted his wife and children over the years, it also shaped how they managed things in the home. The children were sometimes fearful of Chris' anger and learned to sometimes just say what they needed to keep the peace in the home.
Once Chris learned his PTSD wasn't just his, he started to listen better; he learned to really hear family members and give them the space they needed. The level of honesty between Chris and Kathryn became stronger and as a result their communication became much improved. The big difference was that Kathryn needed to be heard and have her voice validated as also being injured. Many positive things started to happen between them and life in their home became much more pleasant.
As a couple they have each learned how important it was to their own relationship to get the air cleared between them and to learn to accept each other again as equals in the home. A spirit of cooperation, trust and honesty now permeates their home, which has led to a vastly improved relationship and has also led to the creation of the COPE Program.
If you think you and your spouse might benefit from the COPE Program trial and at least one of you has military or RCMP service, please visit the website at www.woundedwarriors.ca. Be prepared to give basic information about yourself which will then be passed to a clinical facilitator who will contact you to conduct a clinical assessment as to your readiness as a couple to attend the COPE Program.
The COPE Program brings the possibility of a new beginning for couples battling PTSD in the home. Why not give it a chance to make the difference for you? Make contact today at: www.woundedwarriors.ca.