Deployed husbands, waiting wives; ACA member proposes existential group therapy model for military spouses.

Author:Kennedy, Angela
Position:Legal Humanities - American Counseling Association

There is an old saying that if the military wanted you to have a wife, they would have issued you one.

Fortunately, today, the U.S. Armed Forces are beginning to recognize the direct correlation between a soldier's home life and job performance. They are learning that the emotional well being for the family-especially the spouse -affects the service member both on and off duty. Knowing that, every branch of the U.S. military now provides some type of family support services. These services may not be enough, however, when a loved one is called to war. That's when the strength of the military family unit is brutally tested.

American Counseling Association member Eileen Rakowitz has developed an existential group therapy mode specifically for military wives-the women who say goodbye to their uniformed husbands and are left to wonder and worry if they will ever be together again. Rakowitz, a senior at Saint Louis University, hopes that counselors who work with the military population will try her model and find success in alleviating some of the anxiety and fears of these "waiting wives."

Her interest in counseling military wives grew out of a project for a group therapy class. Rakowitz began researching the subject early 2005 but, to her surprise, found mostly outdated materials and a large gap in the literature. What little she did find was reflective of the times in which it was written, focusing only on "waiting wives." There was no mention of "waiting husbands."

"As a student, you rarely find big gaps in research, but this was a big gap." Rakowitz says. "When I looked at the current literature, there was very little on this-nothing very specific, nothing that had a theory tied in or structure. It was mostly about support groups. Since there is little research on the effects of the war in Iraq on spouses and families at home, we can look to the impact previous wars have had on military spouses in order to build a bridge from the past to our current situation. We are at war. There are a lot of people over (seas) and there are people here who are going through this anxiety." In an effort to draw the attention of more counselors to this topic, Rakowitz presented a poster session on her proposed therapy model at the ACA Convention in Montreal earlier this year.

Rakowitz notes a stereotype persists that these wives need to be strong for their husbands who are at war. In other words, she's supposed to be the rock, for him. But in reality...

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