Category Archives: military families

Military Families

A Blood Test for Depression?

by Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

While depression is prevalent in all of society, military members returning from deployment are especially at risk. Wouldn’t be great if there was a blood test to identify individuals who are depressed?  Researchers at Northwestern University believe that they may have found a way to identify major clinical depression using a widely available blood test.

USS Wasp sailor gets blood drawn

Benefits of a blood test for depression [1]

  • Current psychological tests for depression are dependent on the individual’s reporting of depressive symptoms.
  • Tests vary, some emphasizing specific aspects of depression over others.
  • Most depression is diagnosed and treated in primary care (not by specialists trained in diagnosing and treating depression).

Don’t Celebrate Yet

The blood tests described in the latest research by Redei, and colleagues (2014) [1] are preliminary and have a small number of study participants, but the results are promising. To conduct this study, researchers recruited 64 participants. Thirty-two of the participants met criteria for Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) according to the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview and scored greater than 15 on Hamilton Depression Rating Scale. The control group of 32 non-depressed (ND) participants was similar in age, sex, and race. RNA blood samples were taken from both groups. The MDD group was administered 18 sessions of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). Following CBT, tests were conducted on the MDD group to measure remission. Blood samples were taken from the MDD group following CBT and compared with the ND group.


  • The researchers identified 9 blood biomarkers that were significantly different in MDD participants versus the ND group.
  • Some biomarkers in the MDD group related to depression indicated a change following 18 sessions of CBT.

Implications for Clinicians

While there are well-established psychological tests for depression, they depend on the client reporting depression symptoms accurately. A blood test would support conclusions reached by mental health clinicians. In areas where access to mental health professionals is limited, blood tests could indicate depression and then patients could be referred to a mental health provider for treatment. This is certainly a development to follow!


[1] Redei E. E., Andrus B. M., Kwasny M .J., Seok J., Cai X., Ho J., & Mohr D. C. (2014). Blood transcriptomic biomarkers in adult primary care patients with major depressive disorder undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy. Translational Psychiatry, 4, 1-7 doi: 10.1038/tp.2014.66

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.



Personal Finance Webinar: How to Read a Mutual Fund Prospectus

By Molly C. Herndon

Military families know the importance of saving money, but do they understand the options available for maximizing savings? Along with taking advantage of Thrift Savings Plans (TSPs) and Roth IRA retirement savings options, military families could also be using mutual funds as a savings tool.

"Reading" by Sebastien Wiertz.  Creative Commons.
“Reading” by Sebastien Wiertz. Creative Commons.

In the Tuesday, October 21 webinar, Dr. Michael Gutter will discuss mutual funds in detail and will explain the fees, performance measures, and characteristics of mutual funds that are highlighted in a mutual fund prospectus. Dr. Gutter will also discuss some of the tools and resources available for researching mutual funds. This 90-minute webinar will enable financial educators who attend to work with military families who are interested in using mutual funds as a long-term savings option.

This webinar is approved for 1.5 Continuing Education Units for AFC-credentialed participants through AFCPE. To join the webinar and to view resources, including the presentation slides, click here.

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on October 14, 2014.

October Caregiving Webinar: Marital Conflict


Join us this month as we host our FREE monthly caregiving professional development webinar, Handling Marital Conflict Constructively: It Starts with Me, and Begins with “I.”

Date: Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Time: 11:00 a.m. – Noon Eastern
Event Location:

Michael Roos, a licensed marriage and family therapist with Anuway Counseling, LLC and a Military Family Life Counselor at Magellan Health Services at Joint Base Lewis-McChord will introduce participants to the primary origins of marital conflict within the military. Military service members and their spouses often experience unique challenges that come with military life, for instance, frequent deployments, long distance relationships, and challenges if the service member becomes wounded in combat. Roos will share with participants how conflict develops within relationships and how to confront such conflicts instead of avoid it, and to work together to bring about resolve and growth as a couple.

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 credit go to: NASW Continuing Education Instructions.

Interested in Joining the Webinar?

*No registration is required; simply go to Handling Marital Conflict Constructively 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.

For those who cannot connect to the Adobe site, an alternative viewing of this presentation will be running on Ustream. You can connect to the Adobe webinars using iPhone, iPad, and Droid apps. Search for DCO Connect in the respective stores.

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on October 13, 2014.

FD WEBINAR: What is Trauma and Why Must We Address It? Part 1

Part I: Implications for Clinical Practice

Wondering what we’re planning in October for the 2014 MFLN Family Development Webinar Series??? Here are the details!

iStock_000011132527LargeDate: Thursday, October 23, 2014

Time: 11am-1pm Eastern



Joan Gillece, PhD, Director of the SAMHSA National Center for Trauma Informed Care& Charryse Nichelle, a SAMHSA national consultant & survivor of childhood trauma, will be presenting on various types of trauma and its impact on individuals and families. The presenters will provide an introduction to trauma-informed care and highlight benefits in utilizing this treatment approach for prevention and intervention work with both military and civilian families. This will be the first of our 2 part webinar focusing on trauma-informed care. 

We offer 2.0 National Association of Social Worker CE credits for many 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)

Caregiver Compassion Fatigue

Is your service member experiencing symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or has he/she been exposed to traumatic events while serving? Has these traumatic events indirectly affected your ability to care, causing burnout and significant distress? If so, you may be at risk for a phenomenon called compassion fatigue or secondary traumatic stress (STS). Compassion fatigue, if not treated, can lead to impairment in social and occupational functioning.

What is compassion fatigue or STS? STS is ‘a syndrome of symptoms nearly identical to PTSD except that exposure to a traumatizing event experienced by one person becomes a traumatizing event for the second person’ (Figley, 1999). Compassion fatigue can occur in spouses or partners and children of service members who have experienced combat. Also professionals working with wounded warriors can indirectly be affected, limiting their ability to provide the necessary services for families and service members. Be aware of the symptoms that may be causing you compassion fatigue or STS. Symptoms may include:

  • Distressing dreams related to your service member’s traumatic experiences
  • Functional impairment due to family, social and occupational environments
  • Avoiding thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the service member’s experiences
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Irritability, frustration, or anger

Click on the image below for an illustrated look at additional symptoms related to compassion fatigue.

Compassion Fatigue



Self-Care for Compassion Fatigue

Caregivers – you can minimize the negative impact of compassion fatigue by learning a few simple self-care techniques. Brian Bride, Ph.D., professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Georgia suggests’ using the “A-B-C’s of Self-Care.”


    • Recognize and identify compassion fatigue symptoms.
    • Monitor changes in symptoms over time.
    • Recognize and monitor changes in your functioning.


    • Prioritize your personal life.
    • Attend to your physical health.
    • Seek therapy or counseling.


    • Prioritize your relationship with family and friends.
    • Honor your connection to community.
    • Revitalize your sense of life’s purpose and meaning.

For more information on compassion fatigue and STS within the military, check out Dr. Bride’s recent presentation on Compassion Fatigue and self-care strategies for military caregivers and professionals.

What you once thought was stress related to your caregiving role, may actually be secondary effects from your service member’s traumatic experiencing while serving. Start today by learning how to identify and manage compassion fatigue in your caregiving role, so you can move forward to a healthier lifestyle for you and your service member.

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on October 7, 2014. 

Resource Discovery: Soldiers Talk About Suicide

Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

In these three short videos soldiers talk about suicide, coping with the stress of active duty in the military and the 2014 Suicide Prevention Campaign.

Army helps soldiers have courage to seek help

More video’s can be found on the DoD Suicide Prevention YouTube Channel.

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.

Preparing for Deployment – Spousal Support

by Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Deployment of a spouse can be stressful for the partner left at home. As the family prepares for deployment, attention may be focused on the military member preparing to deploy with packing, getting chores done, visiting friends, saying goodbye and many other activities. During deployment, the spouse and children can feel disconnected, communication with the deployed spouse may be challenging, and the family at home will worry about the service member’s safety.

Mollie Gross offers support, comedy to military spouses

Mollie Gross, a comedian, motivational speaker and author of “Confessions of a Military Wife,” made Marine Corps Base Hawaii spouses and service members laugh – and sometimes cry in a recent presentation.  (DVIDS, U.S. Marine Corps photo by Kristen Wong)

No matter how well a military family is prepared for deployment, the shift in family roles adds to the stressors experienced by the military family, and the role of social support for the spouse becomes more important. In a recent article, Skomorovsky (2014) surveyed spouses of Canadian military service members regarding their level of stress, well-being and depressive symptoms, and their sources of social support during and after deployment. Four types of support were examined: 1) Military spouse; 2) Family of both the military member and spouse; 3) Friends; and, 4) Military contacts. During deployment, having strong social support from family members was key for the non-military spouse’s adjustment and well-being. After deployment, support from friends and the returned spouse, as well as family members, helped predict better adjustment. Both during and after deployment, support from military contacts did not appear to provide significant help to the military spouse.


Social support, particularly from partners, family, and friends outside of the military play an important role when considering the psychological well-being of spouses when a partner is deployed. When working with military spouses, clinicians may consider emphasizing the importance of seeking social support both during and after deployment.

For videos to help spouses and families talk about deployment and illustrating social support, visit Sesame Street’s Talk, Listen, Connect. Other recent MFLN blogs related to this topic can be found here: Marital Adjustment After Deployment; Deployment and Single Parenting: A snapshot into the Experience of Navy Moms.


Skormorovsky, A. (2014). Deployment stress and well-being among military spouses: The role of social support. Miiltary Psychology, 26:1, 44-54.  doi: 10.1037/mil0000029

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.

Caregiver Webinar Recap: Give Care, Take Care

iStock_000020584967MediumLast week the Military Caregiving Concentration team presented on the topic of Give Care, Take Care. The webinar included tips for military professionals and caregivers working with wounded service members in areas of autonomy and decision-making ability, Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs), and finally learning to take care and give care. The goal of the presentation was to provide basic knowledge and some critical thinking skills so caregivers can effectively “give care” to their wounded warrior, while “taking care” of themselves.

Below we will briefly review lessons learned from the event. Remember, you can still view the presentation and receive continuing education credit and a certificate of completion by going to Give Care, Take Care.

Autonomy & Decision-Making

We togetherWhen a service member becomes wounded our first instinct as a caregiver is to take on all responsibilities and decisions. However, we often forget the importance that is placed on making one’s own decision and choices and how to respect the autonomy of the warrior as a surrogate decision-maker. Independence and self-esteem are promoted when the service member is able to have a say, even when the decision is simply to pick out an item of clothing for the day. Caregivers must be able to assess and recognize the services member’s abilities which will ultimately encourage the individual to feel that he/she still has some form of control.


ADLs are basic tasks which must be accomplished to function independently such as bathing, eating, dressing and undressing, toileting and transferring and positions. IADLs are tasks which support independent function and support life but are NOT necessarily critical. Examples of IADLs include grooming and hygiene, walking, cooking, grocery shopping, managing medications, etc.

When a wounded service member is unable to perform these activities, caregivers must step-in to provide assistance. These activities do not come without their challenges and is where the “give care” and “take care” theory comes into play.

Woman caring for sick manGive Care, Take Care

The term “give care” is simply stated–caregivers are providing care through assistance with various ADLs and IADLs. A few examples of caregiver strategies for “giving care” when it comes to eating include:

  • Beware of food hot enough to burn if the service member has weakness, shakiness or problems with grip.
  • Make sure service member’s mouth is empty before each subsequent bite.
  • Don’t rush the service member while he/she is eating.

In order to “give care,” “caregivers must learn to “take care” as well. By learning “take care” strategies, caregivers not only provide enhanced care for the service member but will increase their own personal well-being. For example, learn to practice good body mechanics and know your limitations to providing care.

While caring for a service member may seem a natural extension of one’s relationship, basic tasks associated with caregiving can become challenging and daily activities that were once simple may result in new approaches to care. For an in-depth look into decision-making, ADLs & IADLs, and giving and taking care, checkout the full presentation at Give Care, Take Care.

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on September 23, 2014.

Resource Discovery: Why Domestic Violence Victims Don’t Leave

By Kacy Mixon, PhD, LMFT

In recent weeks media has focused on domestic violence and highlighted the pervasiveness of this issue in our society. The increased attention to this topic in the media follows leaked footage of NFL player, Ray Rice, physically abusing his partner in an elevator and his partner, subsequently, defending this incident when career repercussions were placed on him. Reactions to this incident in the media have brought up the poignant question: Why do victims of domestic violence stay?

TEDxRainier 2012, Leslie Morgan Stainer

Today’s Resource Discovery features a TEDxRainier video from 2012, titled Why Domestic Violence Victims Don’t Leave, in which Leslie Morgan Steiner details her experience with “crazy love”–or being madly in love with someone who abused and threatened her. Steiner is the author of the New York Times best-selling memoir “Crazy Love” as well as the manager of the Washington Post Magazine from 2001 to 2006. In this video,

“Steiner tells the dark story of her relationship, correcting misconceptions many people hold about victims of domestic violence, and explaining how we can all help break the silence.”

More insight into Steiner’s experience can be found in her recent article, “He held a gun to my head. I loved him” published in the Washington Post on September 12, 2014.

The influx of media attention surrounding why victims of intimate partner violence stay with their partners has also ignited a new #whyIstayed twitter initiative which has provided a platform for many victims/survivors of domestic violence to tell their story. Below are additional resources (videos, websites) that may provide more insight into this topic:

This post was written by Kacy Mixon, PhD, LMFT, Social Media Specialist. She works with other members of the Family Development team to support the development of military professionals working with families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network here and on Facebook/Twitter.


Predicting Compassion Fatigue and Burnout in Practitioners

By Rachel Dorman, MS & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

In previous posts we have discussed the importance of mental health providers protecting their own well-being by being aware of risks associated with compassion fatigue, secondary traumatic stress, and burnout. Today we will continue our discussion by looking at factors that may put one at risk or protect one from both compassion fatigue and burnout.

Thompson, Amatea, and Thompson (2014) conducted an online survey to learn more about how gender, length of career, appraisal of working conditions, and personal resources relate to burnout and compassion fatigue among mental health counselors. The study consisted of 213 mental health or licensed professional counselors who completed a master’s degree in counseling, had been practicing for at least six months, and were working with clients 20 hours per week or more. Those practitioners who had positive working conditions, had worked in the field longer, and who used mindfulness were found to be less likely to experience compassion fatigue or burnout. However, maladaptive and emotion-focused coping were related to compassion fatigue and burnout. There did not appear to be a gender difference in report of burnout, but women were more likely to report compassion fatigue than men.

The authors provide many recommendations for counselors and supervisors. They suggest that counselors who are working in a less supportive environment seek support from colleagues, work with their employers to try to improve working conditions, and do what they can to take care of themselves. Supervisors should be sensitive to the possibility of burnout and compassion fatigue among their supervisees, and should try to educate their supervisees on the nature of stress in the counseling relationship, as well as making sure that they are using effective coping strategies to deal with work stress. Finally, the researchers strongly encourage practitioners to explore positive coping strategies to offset the potential negative effects of job stress, such as using mindfulness. For more information on burnout and compassion fatigue check out our previous blogs: Self-care When Caring for Others or Self-care for the Military Family Advocate.


Thompson, I., Amatea, E., & Thompson, E. (2014) Personal and contextual predictors of mental health counselors’ compassion fatigue and burnout. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 36(1), p. 58 – 77. ISSN: 1040-2861

This post was written by Rachel Dorman, M.S. and 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 TwitterYou Tube, and on LinkedIn.