Can a Smartphone Make You Smarter?

Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Using smartphones and other mobile communications devices have become a way of life for many of us. As of 2010, there were over 7.000 health applications for mobile devices – and the list keeps growing. Dr. Shore and colleagues have cataloged and prioritized applications for mental health for the military and summarized three leading military mental health projects using mobile technologies [1].

Combat smart phones: 2-1 AD provides feedback on futuristic technology

Mobile Health, or mHealth (using mobile communication devices for health care services), can improve traditional mental health practices by enhancing communication, enriching health information, encouraging engagement, and improving compliance. Mobile technology can be used easily on-base or in the civilian community, is easily accessible (can be carried in a pocket, purse, or backpack), and can provide patient physiological data as well as voice and text communications. A wide range of mHealth applications for the military have been developed or are in development. Some of the projects being developed include:

  • Remote Exercises for Learning Anger and Excitation Management (RELAX): This application collects self-reported information about the emotions of the user and physiological information that is reported to a therapist to assist in therapist-directed feedback to address anger and stress.
  • Remote PTSD monitoring and diagnosis using an automated system: The application uses voice analysis software to screen and identify individuals at risk for PTSD.
  • A Conversational Independent Living Assistant for Cognitive Impairments: This project extends the current Planning and Execution Assistant Trainer (PEAT) to help users in the VA system to plan, execute, and monitor daily activities. The application is planned to have a virtual caregiver who interacts with the user.
  • Naturalistic Neurocognitive Assessment: A video game for smartphones, the application assesses increasingly complex neurocognitive metrics.

While there are many opportunities to develop innovative mobile technology solutions, there is a limited base of mental health literature evaluating outcomes when using these devices. Still in its infancy, the field of mobile technology and of mHealth is fast moving and provides many possibilities for uses in mental health for care providers in the future.


Shore, J. H., Aldag, M., McVeigh, F. L., Hoover, R. L., Ciulla, R., & Fisher, A. (2014). Review of mobile health technology for military mental health. Military Medicine, 179(8), 865-878. doi:10.7205/MILMED-D-13-00429


This post was written by Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, You Tube, and on LinkedIn.

Resource Discovery: Operation Military Kids

By Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

In 2013, over 105,000 children and youth with a deployed parent participated in Operation: Military Kids (OMK).  This program involves a partnership between the Army and 4-H, as well as collaborations with other national, state, and local groups. Participation might include attending a camp for children who have a deployed parent, social events, or learning leadership skills.

Family readiness is a big part of a successful deployment for the military. A unique partnership with the 4-H helps bridge the gap for children of deployed service-members. Includes sound bites from Theresa Ferrari, Sonia Elviro and Mark Wilson. (Retrieved from: DVIDS, )

This post was written by Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, You Tube, and on LinkedIn.

Can Education and Coping Strategies Reduce the Effects of Childhood Maltreatment?

By Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Military deployment can place additional stress on a family, sometimes resulting in childhood maltreatment. Emotional, physical, and/or sexual maltreatment can have devastating effects on child development. What are some protective factors that can improve outcomes for individuals who experienced childhood maltreatment? In a 2013 article published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, researchers examined protective factors that could reduce symptoms related to childhood maltreatment, and decrease the likelihood of adult personality disorders [1].
Hanging the family tree 2

This study was conducted as part of the “Zurich Programme for Sustainable Development of Mental Health Services” in Zurich, Switzerland. In this portion of the study, 680 residents of the canton of Zurich, ages 20 to 41 years, were given personality disorder (PD) questionnaires, a childhood maltreatment questionnaire, and coping questionnaires. The childhood maltreatment questionnaire included questions about emotional and physical abuse, emotional and physical neglect, and sexual abuse. Coping strategies included emotion-focused coping, problem-focused coping, and dysfunctional coping.

In examining the interactions among childhood maltreatment, level of education, coping strategies, and symptoms of personality disorders, the following results were found:

  • Individuals with low levels of education levels were less likely to use problem-focused coping resources.
  • Surprisingly, in maltreated individuals, as problem-focused coping increased, dependent personality trait disorder scores increased.
  • Consistent with other research, all forms of childhood maltreatment were related to dysfunctional coping skills.

Implications for Clinicians

For adults who have experienced childhood maltreatment, increasing adaptive coping skills (such as ) and reducing dysfunctional skills (such as avoidance, denial, self-distraction or self-blame) may reduce symptoms of personality disorders. Problem-based coping skills to consider when developing a treatment plan could be planning, instrumental support, or active coping. Emotion-based coping skills might include; acceptance, emotional support, humor, or positive reframing.

For more information on childhood maltreatment and the impact on brain development, review the MFLN webinar, “Trauma in Young Children Under 4-Years of Age: Attachment, Neurobiology, and Interventions”. Blogs related to childhood maltreatment include: “Child Maltreatment Prevention“; “Child Brain Development & Trauma”; “Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples Affected by Trauma”; “Therapeutic Book for Child Trauma”.

More on protective factors: “What Leads to Better Outcomes for Children Who Witness Family Violence?”



Hengartner, M. P., Mueller, M., Rodgers, S., Roessler, W., & Ajdacic-Gross, V. (2013). Can protective factors moderate the detrimental effects of child maltreatment on personality functioning? Journal of Psychiatric Research, 47(9), 1180-1186. DOI: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2013.05.005

This post was written by Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, You Tube, and on LinkedIn.

VA Home Loans: Know Your Benefits

In 2008 over 3 million Americans saw their homes foreclosed upon. The foreclosure rate dramatically increased 81 percent from the previous year and 225 percent from 2006. A lot of people were hit hard and, military families were no exception. Some estimates put the 2008 foreclosure rates in military towns as high as four times the national average. Six years later, many perspective homeowners still feel trepidation when it comes to buying a home. A recent MacArthur Foundation survey found that 64 percent of respondents believe “they are less likely to build wealth buying a home today than they were 20 or 30 years ago.” With 43 percent saying that owning a home is a poor long-term investment. Confounding the issue for those surveyed was the attitude that we are still in a national foreclosure crisis with the worst yet to come. Interestingly, these results are counterintuitive to what many economists expect; current trends illustrate that the worst is in fact behind us.
At VA Home Loan Centers we still very much believe in the American Dream of Homeownership.
For Veterans, the challenges of becoming a homeowner can be drastically lessened by the advantages of a VA Home Loan. This is an appealing loan for veterans purchasing a home because it offers low interest rates, relaxed underwriting guidelines, 100 percent financing and 0 dollars down.
A VA Home Loan is also ideal for those still recovering from a harsh economy. Previous financial hardships do not preclude many vets from qualifying. As long as an applicant is up to date on their payments; foreclosures, short sales or bankruptcy filings may not prevent eligibility.
Given the unpredictable nature of military life, VA Home Loans are particularly beneficial to active duty service members facing a permanent change of station. Military members are allowed a permissive Temporary Duty of up to 10 days following their re-assignment orders. These 10 days provide an opportunity for those living off base to house hunt in conjunction with the PCS. Beyond that, those who are upside down on their equity and need to short sale prior to their PCS can do so at no cost. Those who short sale prior to the move may still qualify for a VA Home Loan as long as they are current on their payments, enabling them to buy in the area they have been relocated to.
The Department of Veteran Affairs reports that 200,000 service members leave service every year; many are young people aged 18-34, who are eager to settle down and build a family. It is of paramount importance that they know what benefits they are entitled to, and how to properly take advantage of them. The VA Home Loan is a great way for veterans (or active duty) to achieve the financial and emotional stability that accompanies homeownership.
Written by Noah Perkins, a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Boston, Mr. Perkins currently is the CMS [Content Management Specialist] for VA Home Loans in San Diego.
Those interested in applying for a VA Home loan can find additional information at

5 Tips for Military Caregivers during the Holidays

iStock_000017046751XSmallThe holidays can often be a time filled with many emotions for military caregivers, ranging from thankfulness and joy, to stress and frustration. Overwhelmed with daily responsibilities of providing care to our service members, the holidays, as special as they may be to us, may leave us vulnerable to stress.

The following tips for military caregivers are suggestions for this holiday season as you spend time with your wounded service member and family and friends.

1. Share your wish list of caregiving duties. The gift of asking for help can be even better than material objects. Talk to family and friends and get them involved in some of your caregiving activities. Ask if they can provide respite care for a few hours, run errands, take your service member to the doctor, or help out around the house.

2. Recognize signs and symptoms of burnout. During the holidays your caregiving duties may become more heightened than ever. Your stress level can reach an all-time high as you try to juggle caring for your wounded warrior and getting ready for the holiday festivities. Before long you become burnout and robbed of your energy and experience a full blown emotional breakdown. Recognize these emotions or signs and symptoms of burnout and identify outlets when you begin to feel stressed.

3. Anticipate holiday triggers from your service member. The holidays may trigger stress or unhappy memories for some wounded service members. Be mindful and acknowledge their emotions as well as yours. Service members may feel anxious with large holiday crowds; they may even bring on negative emotions because they are no longer able to accomplish or participate in things they once were. Stay focused on the positive, and thankful they are with you this time of year.

4. Simplify holiday activities. We all imagine the holidays full of bright lights and food and drinks of every variety, but it may be less stressful if you scaled back a bit to simplify, while still enjoying the holiday festivities. Set limits. If you are baking for a feast, chose foods that are simpler to bake; eat out or order a prepared meal.

5. Start new holiday traditions. Depending on your service member’s injury, you and your family may not be able to participate in as many holiday activities as you once were. As a caregiver, you are learning to create a ‘new normal’ and change is inevitable. If you are unable to travel to see family and friends or attend holiday parties, try using technology and setup a video visit.

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on December 1, 2014.

What Leads to Better Outcomes for Children who Witness Family Violence?

By Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Violence directed at a spouse or partner does not only affect the involved partners, but can also impact children that are at home and witness violence. Children witnessing violence are at risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other emotional or behavioral problems. We’ve highlighted prevalence and effects of children’s exposure to violence in a previous blog. Today, we will focus on protective factors, or attributes that reduce the risk of a negative outcome, that can play an important role in a child’s development and adaptation under adverse conditions.

D. Sharon Pruitt, Flickr, 2006


Schultz and colleagues [1] studied three potentially protective factors for children exposed to family violence and at risk of developing PTSD or behavioral problems: Self-control; Assertion; and Parent stress. Data were taken from the existing Safe Start Promising Approaches (SSPA) program evaluation dataset, which tracked children from 15 sites over time based on the type of intervention they received. The participants included in this study (children and their parents from a total of 350 families) were those who did not receive any intervention. Target children ranged in age from 1-12, so there were multiple types of measures used, including the Social Skills Rating System, Brief Infant-Toddler Social and Emotional Assessment, Parenting Stress Index – Short Form, Trauma Symptom Checklist for Young Children, and Behavior Problem Index, supplemented with 4 questions from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, and information regarding level of violence exposure. Protective factors and outcome measures were collected at the study baseline and in a 6 months follow-up interview.

Results suggest that children who have better self-control, or have parents who reported less stress, showed fewer PTSD symptoms and fewer behavioral problems. Assertion (such as high self-confidence) did not seem to serve in a protective role related to the development of PTSD symptoms or behavioral problems.


When working with a child who has been exposed to family violence, interventions that focus on reducing parental stress and increasing the child’s self-control may result in more positive outcomes, both for the child and the family.


[1] Schultz, D., Jaycox, L. H., Hickman, L. J., Setodji, C., Kofner, A., Harris, R., & Barnes, D. (2013). The relationship between protective factors and outcomes for children exposed to violence. Violence and Victims, 28(4), 697-714. doi:

This post was written by Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, You Tube, and on LinkedIn.

Year-End Tax Planning Strategies

By Molly C. Herndon

Social Media Specialist 

The temptation to put off organizing financial records and updating accounts until the new year may be overwhelming this time of year. Family get-togethers and the holidays stretch our time and our finances. However, planning now can mean a better outcome when filing your taxes next Spring.

Numbers and Finance  by reynermedia. Licensed Creative Commons CC BY 2.0.
Numbers and Finance by reynermedia. Licensed Creative Commons CC BY 2.0.

In our December 9 webinar, Year-End Tax Planning Strategies, Dr. Barbara O’Neill will discuss ways to plan ahead to increase deductions and be better prepared for tax laws that may impact your wallet. This 90-minute webinar begins at 11 a.m. ET and is worth 1.5 CEUs for AFC-credentialed participants.

The Personal Finance team has presented on the topic of taxes twice before. Earlier this year, Dr. Michael Gutter presented Tax Planning Updates for Members of the Military . This webinar focused on tax laws that affect military members, as well as unique issues related to combat pay and basic tax calculation. Watch the recording here:

In 2012, we presented Income Tax Filing Issues for Members of the Armed Forces. This 90-minute webinar teased apart the dense information that pertains to military members when filing returns. Watch the recording of this session here:

To join the upcoming December 9 session and for more information, click here.

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on November 25, 2014.

Family Dev. Webinar: Using Protective Factors to Inform Work with Child Maltreatment

Wondering what’s next in our MFLN 2014 Webinar series? Here are the details!

Date: Thursday, December 11, 2014

Time: 11am-1pm Eastern


Cover photo image: Creative Commons Licensing [Flickr, CT Senate Democrat, May 2nd 2012]

Representatives from FRIENDS National Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (Casandra Firman, M.S. & Alicia Luckie. M.S.) will be presenting on best practices for clinicians and other service providers working in the child abuse prevention community. The presenters will highlight not only risk factors associated with child maltreatment but also the 6 protective factors. The presentation will explore how service professionals can incorporate the 6 protective factors into their work to reduce likelihood of abuse or neglect.

We offer 2.0 National Association of Social Worker CE credits for each of our webinars, click here to learn more. For more information on future presentations in the 2014 Family Development webinar series, please visit our professional development website or connect with us via social media for announcements: (Facebook & Twitter)

Resource Discovery: Understanding the Military Experience

Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

PBS (Corporation for Public Broadcasting) has some excellent resources for mental health professionals who want to better understand the military experience and inform their practice. On the web page entitled, “Stories of Service” multiple links are provided that give information about the challenges and opportunities that military members may experience when returning to a civilian environment.

Crafting useful art objects can give military members an opportunity to express themselves and “tell their story.” In the PBS’s series “Craft in America” there is an episode entitled “Service” in which veterans tell their stories.

PBS the cup

“My wife calls my work War Awareness Art. I’m not so concerned if you’re for or against a specific war, but that you’re ignorant of what’s happening is not OK with me.” — artist Ehren Tool (PBS, Retrieved from

PBS Resources:
Veterans telling their stories in craft making.
Other PBS resources – Stories of Service.


This post was written by Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, You Tube, and on LinkedIn.

December Caregiving Webinar: Medicaid & Military Families (Part 1)


Join the Military Caregiving Concentration team as they host their FREE monthly professional development webinar on the topic of ‘Medicaid and Military Families: An Introduction’ – part one of a three part series.

Date: December 10, 2014
Time: 11:00 a.m. Eastern
Event Location:
*No registration is required 

Christopher Plein Ph. D., an Eberly Professor of Outstanding Public Service at West Virginia University, will provide an introduction into a three-part series on the overall purposes of the Medicaid program; its relevance to military families, especially those with family members who have special needs. Medicaid is a federal-state program that often provides health care coverage for low-income families and those with disabilities. The purpose of the ‘Medicaid and Military Families’ three-part series is to assist military service providers and others with a general knowledge of Medicaid and to provide guidance on where to turn for resources and further information.

Webinar training objectives include:

  • Describe ‘What is Medicaid?’
  • Understand eligibility requirements
  • Identify medicaid essentials
  • Implement program in current work
  • Recognize the future of Medicaid
CEU Credit Available!

The Military Families Learning Network will be providing 1.0 National Association of Social Workers (NASW) continuing education credit to credentialed participants. Certificates of Completion will also be available for training hours as well. For more information on CEU credits go to: NASW Continuing Education Instructions.

Interested in Joining the Webinar?

*No registration is required; simply go to Part 1 Medicaid and Military Families: An Introduction the day of the event to join. The webinar is hosted by the Department of Defense so you must install security certificates if you are not located on a military installation. Instructions for certificate installation can be found by clicking on DCO Adobe Certificate Installation. You can connect to the Adobe webinar using iPhone, iPad, and Droid apps. Search for DCO Connect in the respective stores.

For those who cannot connect to the Adobe site, an alternative viewing of this presentation will be running on Ustream.

This post was written by Mikala Whitaker, MFLN- Military Caregiving Social Media assistant, and published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on November 17, 2014.