VA Marriage Retreats

Posted: March 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

For over a quarter century, the nonprofit PAIRS Foundation has served active-duty military and Veteran families through educational programs that deliver practical skills to strengthen marriages and families. PAIRS VA Marriage Retreats for military and Veteran families were recognized in 2009 as a "Best Practice" by the Veterans Administration. PAIRS Retreats for military and Veteran couples are today offered throughout the country by many of the more than 300 VA Chaplains, Behavioral Health Professionals, and Counselors trained by PAIRS Foundation. The Department of Veterans Affairs is trying a new path when it comes to caring for and healing the Nation’s wounded Veterans. Now, in addition to repairing their damaged bodies and minds, VA is attempting to go one step further and repair their crumbling marriages.
“Research shows that 70 percent of our combat Veterans are experiencing marital problems,” said VA Chaplain Ron Craddock. “Twenty percent of them decide to divorce before they even return from theatre. This is staggering. The toll on the individual Veteran is staggering. The toll on his family is staggering.” That’s why Craddock and another VA Chaplain, Ed Waldrop, launched VA’s very first marriage retreat three years ago at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, Ga. The retreats are conducted by VA chaplains, social workers, psychologists, and counselors who have been certified as instructors for teaching better communication skills, relationship skills, and emotional literacy skills to couples. “We started out doing three or four retreats a year,” Waldrop said. “We got a lot of positive feedback, so now we’re up to about 11 a year. We’ve done two- or three-day retreats for over 400 couples. We’re here in Georgia, but we’ve had couples come here from as far away as Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and Florida…all over. The retreat is free, so their only expense is transportation. If they can make it here, we get them into the program.” The idea is gradually catching on at other VA sites across the nation.
The VA San Diego Healthcare System now has a marriage retreat program up and running, while about 20 other VA medical centers are in the beginning stages of establishing their own programs. So what exactly goes on at a marriage retreat, anyway? “We spend about 70 percent of our time helping couples with their communication skills,” Craddock said. “When these Veterans come back from overseas, they don’t have the communication tools to talk to their spouse about their pain, their frustration, their grief. And we’re seeing this in both males and females…even the females returning from Iraq and Afghanistan want to seclude themselves. Just like the guys, they don’t want to be around crowds…they don’t want to go on family vacations or outings…” When VA’s marriage retreats first began, only Veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts were being accepted into the program. Since then, VA has opened the program to anyone who’s ever worn the uniform. For more information on VA’s marriage retreat program, call 706-733-0188, extension 6118, 6114, or 6172. For information on PAIRS refer to [Source: 24 Feb 2012 ++]


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