Tag Archives: militaryfamilies

Reflections on “Communicating Effectively During Transitions” Webinar


by Patty Steward Griffith, PsyD, MA, LP

Pattys pic to use

Sometimes I feel that as mental health providers we are often out of breath, running to catch up with the ever changing and dynamic needs of service members and their families. And, although each military family is different and special, broader themes emerge in our work with the military culture that could best be explored through the research of social scientists in order to better serve our military families.

The August 18, 2015 MFLN Family Transitions webinar “Communicating Effectively During Transitions – Managing Turbulence and Dilemmas” with Steven Wilson and Leanne Knobloch is a prime example of the investigative work being conducted that offers a contextual understanding for common challenges faced by service members and their families. Especially relevant for mental health providers was the methodology of the research. This webinar was beneficial in that participants were able to walk away with concrete data and tools for their toolbox to support better communication during transitions. The strategies shared for achieving meaningful and productive communication are helpful to both families and practitioners..

One resource that was shared, VA Coaching into Care, seems to be an excellent resource, because bringing in a third party to navigate the VA health care system can help families avoid the potentially painful conflict of trying to coax a resistant service member into unwanted treatment. The social stigma that surrounds asking for mental health support still exists within the military culture. This a complicated dilemma and understandable to individuals serving in the military. Many military men and women would rather confide in their unit buddies about mental health issues, than speak to a stranger who may or may not “get it.”

In my experience when working with military families as a mental health provider, through the Yellow Ribbon Program and then with rotational work with the military, I have found that chaplains are incredibly helpful and important in easing the transition for our military men and women to find their way to civilian or military behavioral health help. The chaplains are trusted and quite often the first responder for an individual’s mental health issues.

Outside of the somewhat protective bubble of the Yellow Ribbon events, providers working with trusted military individuals are essential for creating strong and helpful relationships with families. I have worked with some remarkable women and men of military families within communities who have quietly been providing excellent support and services to military families for decades. They have been extraordinary role models and teachers. The military community in outstate rural areas often depend upon the expertise and wisdom of these individuals.

I have worked on the clinical side of the psychological service spectrum for more than 20 years. Since 2009 I have worked with other mental health providers at innovative Yellow Ribbon programs events nearly every weekend in a 5 state area. We provided confidential support and also trained service members and families about post deployment issues, children and deployment, effective communication, the new normal, predeployment preparation, strong bonds couples’ work and more. These workshops served as conversation starters and provided useful shared information as well. This has been a casual and effective way to provide services to interested families and individuals. Having the communication data from this webinar would have been ideal then, and will now be a good addition to workshops, and for therapeutic work with military families.

Something that Steven Wilson spoke about in regard to clear and thoughtful communication with a family member or provider talking to a post deployment service member was the statement, “I can’t ever know what you have gone through.” . This really resonated with me. This statement is both honest and somewhat open ended. Sometimes this kind of comment will pave the way for more conversation in a relationship or therapy session. It is, without being prying or judgmental, a neutral statement that can promote better communication and potentially develop trust with the family member or provider.

At the end of the day, having excellent care for military families with sound, research-based strategies is what I believe mental health providers strive to offer. The research presented in this communication webinar supports this vision.


Dr. Patty Stewart Griffith is a licensed clinical psychologist who has worked for more than 26 years in Los Angeles and Minneapolis providing mental health services ­ and also direct psychological services to hospitals, human service organizations, and the military. She has provided mental health services for the past 23 years to PICA Head Start, which serves 2500 children and families a year. She also has provided direct ongoing mental health services for U.S Military service members for the past 7 years.

Military Caregiving Webinar: Going to College & Transition Planning for Those with Disabilities


Mark your calendars for our upcoming September MFLN Military Caregiving professional development webinar on, Going to College: A Guide to Transition Planning for Those with Disabilities. Event deals are below.

Time: 11:00 a.m. Eastern
Date: Wednesday, September 9, 2015
Event Location: https://learn.extension.org/events/2168
(*Click on the webinar flyer below to download and share with your networks.)

Just as the new school year has kicked off for many families, our MFLN Military Caregiving team will be hosting a training for professionals and families on transition planning for those with disabilities going into postsecondary education institutions. Webinar presenter, Dan Zhang, Ph.D., Professor and Director of the Center on Disability and Development at Texas A&M University, will provide an overview of transitioning to postsecondary education with disabilities and the challenges it may have on our wounded warriors and those with special needs. Some of the strategies include person centered goal setting, understanding the demands of college, use of self-advocacy skills, and securing reasonable accommodations.

Learning objectives include:

  • Understanding the importance of postsecondary education
  • Identifying challenges and opportunities for individuals with disabilities and for wounded warriors
  • Setting appropriate postsecondary education goals
  • Understanding the demands of college
  • Understanding the importance of self-advocacy
  • Identifying reasonable accommodations and disability services
  • Recognizing strategies for students with hidden disabilities.

Registration is required to join the webinar, but can be completed on the day of the event. Also we will be offering Certificates of Completion for those that may be interested in receiving training hours for attending the event.

Interested in Joining the Webinar?

To join the webinar, simply click on Going to College: A Guide to Transition Planning for Those with Disabilities. The webinar is hosted by the Department of Defense Connect System (DCS), but is open to the public. It is strongly suggested that when using the DCS system to open the webinar on Google Chrome for both PC and MAC connections. If this is not an option, Internet Explorer may be used if connecting via PC. Safari and Firefox are not compatible with this DCS platform.

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

Webinar Flyer - Download (PDF)
Webinar Flyer – Download (PDF)

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on August 28, 2015.

Unclaimed Assets: An Overlooked Source of Cash

By Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, oneill@aesop.rutgers.edu

Military families move around a lot and this can lead to instances of “missing money.” It is estimated that some $300 billion in personal financial assets are “missing” nationwide. This figure includes wages, insurance proceeds and dividends, bank accounts, stock and bond payments, utility company deposits, pension benefits, and tax refunds.

How does so much money get “lost” by so many people? There are a number of reasons:

  • People neglect to retrieve a utility security deposit after moving
  • Stock dividends or other payments are sent to the wrong address and never forwarded
  • People move or switch banks and fail to close out all their accounts
  • People change jobs and former employers don’t know where to send pension benefits or final wages
  • Clueless heirs are unaware that they are entitled to life insurance or cash left by a deceased relative
  • “Snowbirds” lose mail between their summer and winter homes

SaveThe good news is that, thanks to the Internet, it’s easier than ever to search for unclaimed property. The Web site, www.missingmoney.com, run by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, allows people to easily conduct a search. Another helpful resource is state unclaimed property agencies.

What do state governments have to do with unclaimed property? Plenty! By law, after a certain period of time (generally 3 to 10 years), unclaimed assets must be turned over to the state through a process called escheat. Hundreds of millions of dollars are escheated to states each year. Companies that don’t comply can be assessed fines. States keep this money until a rightful owner shows up to claim it.

It is advisable to conduct a search of every other state you (or a deceased relative) have lived in, as well as New York and Delaware, because that’s where a lot of financial institutions are incorporated. If you are due money, you’ll be sent an abandoned property claim form, which should be returned with proof of identity.

Another source of missing money is the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) at 800-829-1040. You can also check with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation for missing pensions. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. says it’s holding $265 million in unclaimed pensions and the average lost pension is worth about $1,100.

Will military families become wealthy from unclaimed property? Probably not. While there are some exceptionally large payments that occasionally make headlines, most claims are for less than $1,000. Nevertheless, a dollar is a dollar. Why not check to see if there’s hidden treasure with your name on it?

For further information about unclaimed assets, see http://www.missingmoney.com/ and http://www.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T037-C000-S002-6-things-to-know-about-finding-unclaimed-assets.html.

Key Takeaways for Professionals on Building Trust & Credibility

Building Trust/CredibilityOn Wednesday the MFLN Military Caregiving concentration hosted their monthly webinar on ‘Empowering Those We Help: Building Trust and Credibility’ to military helping professionals  that may be working with family caregivers of wounded service members and those caring for someone with special needs.

The professional development training was more of a “back to basics” guide that focused on principles to effective services on empowering families and increasing resilience, while recognizing that families have expert-level knowledge regarding their own experiences and key insight into the needs of their loved one.

Upon completion of the webinar, presenter Alicia Cassels, Extension Professor from West Virginia University, provided key takeaways for professionals to think about as they go forth in their work with military families.  As you read the following key takeaways, think about how these may affect your work experience. Do these represent your current work environment or are there areas for improvement?

  • Effective service provision empowers families and helps increase resilience.
  • Effective service providers recognize that families have expert-level knowledge regarding their own experiences and key insight into the needs of their loved ones.
  • Communication styles, family culture, base culture, special needs and other factors impact family decisions to seek support. Professional skills, personal attributes and experiences influence provider interactions with families.
  • It is important for providers to learn as much as possible about the cultures that they serve.
  • Effective helping professionals convey key characteristics when collaborating with families. These characteristics include: unbiased, emotionally mature, culturally competent, non-judgmental, accepting, empathetic, objective and empowering.
  • Comprehensive needs assessments should be conducted prior to goal setting and should identify family strengths and needs.
  • Periodic reviews of goals should be conducted in order to address changing family needs and priorities.
  • Providers are ideally seen as hubs for accurate information, family support and needs-based referrals.
  • Collaborative working relationships with organizations that serve your population will increase your capacity to help families access necessary services.
  • It is important to assist families in adjusting expectations regarding services based on knowledge of typical timelines and experiences.

If you missed Wednesday’s MFLNMC webinar there is still time to watch the recording and receive continuing education credit or a certificate of completion for training hours. Simply go to, ‘Empowering Those We Help: Building Trust and Credibility’ to learn more.

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on August 21, 2015.

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Once a Marine, Always a Marine – Transition Reflections from a Military Spouse

By Jennifer Rea

“Babe, I’m thinking about applying to Officer Candidate School (OCS)…”

My heart sank in my chest and my head ran to every negative connotation of my husband being in the military AGAIN—deployments at least 7 months long, everything falling apart, my anxiety and fear of being alone at night and the painful move as I left my family and friends for the first time.

“Well, I don’t do life as just OK. I’m not the kind of person that does the 9 to 5 job and is happy with it… I need something more.”

To provide you with a little background… my husband (JR) and I met in 6th grade for the very first time when he moved from private school to public school. In 6th grade, JR and I dated for a week, but broke up because one of my close friends wanted to date him… strange how things work out! We actually reconnected, at a more mature level, in our 10th grade Algebra class.

It’s funny to me to look back on the first day of that Algebra class and remember that JR’s pick up line (via MSN Messenger) was “Hey, you looked beautiful today in math class! We should hang out sometime.” His courage and confidence anchored me in and I was hooked.

My high school sweetheart became my husband on June 16, 2012—after 5 years and 8 months of dating (finally!). At that time, my husband had already been in the Marine Corps for two years and was stationed in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Much of our relationship at the time was long distance with emails, snail mail, Skype, Facebook, and MSN Messenger to help us stay connected while 1,300 miles apart—I thank God for technology!

Two short days after we got married, JR and I spent our “honeymoon” packing up a U-Haul and my two-door Civic, driving cross country (from Minnesota to North Carolina) in separate vehicles…a perfect way to spend your honeymoon, right?

We were both very excited as we had never lived together before and were finally together in the same house let alone in the same community for the first time in two years! With the happiness, there also came struggles and challenges for both of us. Learning to live together was one thing, but having to adapt to the military lifestyle and culture was another.

I had never grown up with anyone that was close to me that was in the military besides my grandfathers, however they had been retired for several years so, I had never known what “military life” was like. I now believe that knowing what the military lifestyle can only be understood by the military family themselves. I say this not to offend anyone, but to point out that I personally have seen several differences between “military” and “civilian” life. The first, as a military family I conceptualize the absence of my husband being gone quite differently than I would have not being a military spouse. Although it is difficult when he is gone—I am very proud of my Marine for serving our country and having such dedication to his work.

A second piece is that the military is a “culture”—it has its own language, way to act, and attire. I recognized this difference when I went on the military base for the first time. It was obvious who was not a service member based on the haircut and the attire and I definitely felt as if I stood out like a sore thumb!

Another piece was trying to learn the language and all the acronyms! Many of the get-togethers we had at our house involved the gathering of service members that my husband worked with (his friends) and their spouses. When it was just me and the “guys” I had no idea what they were talking about and felt left out of the conversation several times due to their acronyms and work lingo—I was very thankful for the military spouses I had met, which brings me to my next item—a military family.

As I had previously mentioned, the military is a culture and part of this culture involves several military families—this is the piece I loved the most! While not all military spouses get along, there are many military spouses that I could confide in and know that they would have my back no matter what. The part where you’re able to connect with someone going through the same situation as you and being in the “military spouse club” are things I really valued and enjoyed.

I had never been that far away from my parents, my family and my friends so the whole transition was very difficult for me. I think JR struggled too, with looking for a way to help me, when really there wasn’t much he could do. I just needed to adjust so time and patience were key factors for me.

The biggest thing that helped me adapt in the transition was being open and willing to meet new people, which I know was difficult at the time, even for me, as a social butterfly. Secondly, I got a job and I kept busy. I was actually enrolled in North Carolina State at the time to receive my M.S. in Family Life and Youth Development. I ran across a really great job—so, all of these things really helped me adjust. I also tried to continue the hobbies that I was used to doing in Minnesota, such as running, going to the gym, workout classes and crafting. I really enjoyed exploring the town and the Carolinas—of course, I can’t forget about the beach.

So, fast-forward to the transition we are in now… honestly, I kind of saw it coming. JR had a really hard time “leaving the military” and transitioning to “civilian life”. The beginning of our drive home to Minnesota was very emotional for him—it was like he was leaving his family. I felt really bad for him and felt guilty that I “made” him decide to move back home. We struggled during this transition too, as change is hard for both of us. JR wasn’t happy with his civilian job and I honestly hate when he’s unhappy—I feel helpless.

Watching JR in the “civilian world” was challenging. He hasn’t had anyone to really connect with unless he called his other service member buddies on the phone and man, those phone calls made his day! Again, it was almost as if he lost his family. The military had been part of his life for 5 years and he was used to the strict schedule, a consistent and reliable career with benefits, and was challenged with every day routines. I believe that the most difficult piece for JR was looking for a job—sending out resumes and going to interviews—this is something JR hadn’t done in 5 years! The second was financial. I know there were many times we talked about how we were going to pay our bills, and wondered if his job would be able to support us. It was stressful, but we were both on the same page on budgeting and managing our finances, so I think that helped a lot! And then JR found a job that was more stable than working construction, which helped with the financial piece and the benefits. For more “excitement” and to challenge his skills, JR applied to college and this really seemed to bring up his spirits. Many times he would come home from school and tell me all about class; what they talked about, how it relates to being in the military, and everything he had been learning. It was exciting and encouraging to know that he was “satisfied” with at least one piece in his life.

So, the conversation came up several times, and I think we both really needed to soak it in. I was angry, sad and anxious at the thought of him being in the military again. I felt like it was his decision and he hadn’t even thought about “us”. Throughout the process, he kept saying “I’m sorry… I don’t want to do this to you again”. And I just thought, “well, don’t then”… I asked myself “can I do this again? What are the benefits and do they outweigh the downfalls?” I appreciated his sympathy and concern in the matter, but I struggled in understanding why he wanted to join again…

I ended up reassuring myself that this was inevitably JR’s decision, however he had made the decision for us—for our future and our future family. I didn’t realize this until actually two weeks before he left for OCS. We had just been driving home after getting ice cream as I was stressed with finals and thinking about JR leaving. We had just pulled into the garage and I had asked him, “So, really, why do you want to join OCS?” And he looked at me and replied “I want to do this for our family. I struggled growing up—not having the finances to be able to go to college, barely being able to pay the bills and all the other financial aspects— it really stresses me out and I don’t want that for our family. I want us to be able to travel, to take off and fly wherever we want, whenever we want. I also want our kids to be able to go to college and I want to financially support them. I love the thrill of being in the military, it’s fast pace and motivating, but also I enjoy the fact that it is simple for me—there are set hours, pay and benefits, but also opportunities for challenges and goals to achieve. I hate that I have to leave you again and miss you every time I’m gone—this is the worst part for me, and the reason why we got out in the first place. But the way I see it now, there are many more opportunities for us in the military then just saying here.” Amazed—is the word that I describe how I felt in this moment—JR always seems to amaze me and surprise me with what he believes, his opinions, and his drive—all the reasons why I wouldn’t want to be without him. So, we decided if he goes, I go.

No one really understands why individuals want to join the military or better yet why someone would want to “follow” and go with them! But from my experience, I recognized that the individuals that do are amazingly selfless and humble people who want to make a difference in not only their lives, but a majority of their focus is to make a significant impact in the lives of others. This in itself motivated and encouraged me to “allow” or accept JR’s desire to re-enlist and apply to Officer Candidates School. I was also reassured by God’s love and knowing that he has BIG plans for JR and I—much greater than we would’ve ever thought! Oddly enough, I feel so incredibly blessed and thank God every day for JR. He is the most intelligent, caring, loving, selfless, and supportive man I have ever met! Together, we make a great team and a military family.

Looking toward the future… I definitely see my future differently than I did when we had moved home to Minnesota last August. The biggest difference is knowing that I won’t be living in Minnesota for the rest of my life—this piece hurts, A LOT because it’s home—its where my family is, my friends, my memories, everything. The second item is my career. I am currently going to the University of Minnesota to receive my PhD in Family Social Science and I hope to teach in a university someday, however knowing that my husband is now becoming a Marine officer—it’s a slightly different story. For one, JR will be active duty again so, this means that there will be at least one year where we will have to manage long distance again, which sucks, but I want to finish my schooling here in Minnesota before moving from place-to-place. Secondly, there are not many universities near military bases, especially Marine Corps bases. So, currently, I’m envisioning that I will either teach at a community college, which could be fun or find a career working for the DoD or a military base – teaching, researching, or program design and evaluation. So, we’ll see! And the third is our future family. When we came home, I was thinking about having our first child when I was like 25, but now with my graduate program and JR going active duty again, we both have decided that children will have to wait a little bit longer—at least until JR gets somewhat permanently stationed and I finished my degree—sorry, Mom and Dad! So, the first major milestones, while we did purchase our first house in December, it looks like we’ll only be able to keep it for 3 years and then move to somewhere else, where I’m assuming we will probably have to rent/live on base. And then children probably a little later in life, around 27 years old—all of which can have its benefits and limitations.

So, today… I haven’t seen JR in a month, not the longest we’ve been apart, but the most time we haven’t been able to talk since his first boot camp. For the first 3 weeks of OCS training, the only communication that we had with each other was snail mail! It’s been difficult not being able to come home and eat dinner with JR, go on walks, enjoy the summer weather, or simply share how our days went. Fortunately, after the third week, JR was able to call me and we Skyped for a while too so, that was really nice. It is hard for me to see him and talk to him, and then he has to leave and our communication gets completely cut off for a week—major bummer! During this time however I’ve been working at school, doing research, and working on a paper that is due later on in my program. As I had mentioned earlier, it is easier for me to deal with the transition and time apart if I stay busy and continue to send my brain messages that “it will be okay. He will be home soon!” I also make lots of plans to hang out with people because sometimes I really don’t feel like doing anything and if I stay home, I just get more sad and lonely. So, forcing myself to go out and spend time with good family and friends has been really helpful for me to get through this summer being away from JR.

Guilt and Caregiving Go Hand in Hand

Blog post written by Mary Brintnall-Peterson, Ph.D., MBP Consulting, LLC, Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Extension


When I find myself in a caregiver role, due to my husband’s chronic medical condition, feelings of guilt are often with me. When I lash out at my husband or when I don’t react in a kind and loving way I feel guilty. When I go through my list of “what ifs”, “if onlys” and “should,” guilt surfaces. I learned in a caregiver class that guilt is natural for caregivers, but knowing that doesn’t take my guilt away! In fact, I think as caregivers, we have a tendency to feel guilty when anything goes wrong. It’s natural for us to feel responsible for what is happening to our loved one, even if we have no control over or responsibility for the situation.

The instructor of the caregiver class went on to explain that many times what I thought was guilt was really regret. Guilt involves saying or doing something that causes someone to be hurt or wronged. Guilt occurs when you have some responsibility or control over the situation. Regret is wishing that things or the situation could be different. It is a feeling of disappointment or distress when a situation is not the way you would like.

Here’s an example – a friend called me last week and said she was feeling guilty because John, her husband who was recovering from an infection in his amputated leg, fell while she was at the grocery store. I asked her if she had caused John to fall and she responded NO. Next, I asked her if going to the grocery store made John fall? She said, “of course not” – so my response to her was “why are you feeling guilty?” I explained that she was actually feeling regret about John falling and not guilt as she had nothing to do with his fall.

The class I took taught me that guilt can be a difficult and painful emotion and that too much can be harmful, therefore I need to correctly identify guilt. When I feel guilty I ask myself two questions:

  1. Is there a direct cause and effect relationship between what I did or failed to do and the resulting harm to someone?
  2. Did I do something wrong or say something I shouldn’t have said that resulted in someone being hurt?

If the answer to these questions is yes, then I explore ways to react to my guilt feelings by doing one or more of the following:

  • Admitting responsibility for what I did or said.
  • Apologizing and/or asking for forgiveness from the person I’ve hurt, harmed or wronged.
  • Attempting to make the situation better.
  • Talking with a friend who can help me come to terms with my feelings by being understanding and supportive.
  • Identifying and understanding my responsibilities as a caregiver. I try to make sure I have realistic expectations of what I can and can’t do.
  • Focusing on what I have done that is positive, good and right. By doing this, it helps me counter balance my feelings of guilt.
  • Learning from my experience and trying not to make the same mistake again.
  • Realizing I am human and make mistakes, especially when I am under a lot of stress.
  • Seeking professional help if my guilt persists and consumes my thoughts.

I hope that what I’ve shared makes sense to you and is helpful as you figure out whether you’re feeling guilt or regret and how to deal with your guilt. The bottom line is that taking care of our guilt is one way, as caregivers, to take care of ourselves. You are not alone on your caregiver journey, so hang in there and remember you are doing the best you can!

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on August 14, 2015.

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Upcoming Caregiver Webinar: Building Trust & Credibility with Clients

Remember to join the MFLN Military Caregiving team for our upcoming, monthly professional development webinar on, ‘Empowering Those We Help: Building Trust and Credibility.’ Event details are below.

Time: 11:00 a.m. Eastern
Date: Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Event Location: https://learn.extension.org/events/2125
(*Click on the webinar flyer below to download and share with your networks.)

The goal of the 60-minute professional development course is to provide an overview of strategies for you, the military helping professional, in serving as effective resources for families. During the training you will be able to increase your knowledge of key characteristics of professional development and factors associated with establishing credibility and trust with your military families. Focus will be given on how you can facilitate and implement effective problem-solving and other activities with families through a collaborative approach.

CEU Credit Available!

The Military Families Learning Network has applied for 1.0 National Association of Social Workers (NASW) continuing education credit for 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?

Go to Empowering Those We Help: Building Trust and Credibility the day of the event to join. The webinar is hosted by the Department of Defense Connect System (DCS), but is open to the public. It is strongly suggested that when using the DCS system to open the webinar on Google Chrome for both PC and MAC connections. If this is not an option, Internet Explorer may be used if connecting via PC. Safari and Firefox are not compatible with this DCS platform.

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

Webinar Flyer – Download

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on July 10, 2015.


Change and Standing on Platforms of Possibilities

By Trisha Wohlfeil, MA, LMFT

One of the reasons change is so hard for many of us is because where there is change there is often vulnerability. Many of us find the experience of vulnerability incredibly uncomfortable or even downright painful. Based on her research Brené Brown defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure”. Not only is it nearly impossible to avoid uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure on a daily basis, but when we are facing change it often heightens them. It requires us to call deep on our courage to face what lies ahead. I used to think that people who were brave didn’t feel vulnerable any more, but now I now know that not only is it possible to be brave and afraid at the same time, they almost always happen together.

One thing that had helped me while learning The Daring Way™ is to find metaphors that help put words to my experiences. This is especially helpful for me when facing a sensitive topic like vulnerability. This is the experience I think of when I am facing vulnerability and taking a risk. Our family attends a family camp together in the summer and one of the adventure activities we always sign up for is the zip line. To get to the zip line platform, you first have to climb a large hill of steps to get to the tower and once you are there you have climb even more flights of stairs to get to the top of the platform to ride the zip line. A thrilling ride where you zoom down the hill dangling from a cable attached to harness.

While your heart is pounding from all the steps, it begins to pound even more when you see the height you are at and the ledge you are going to step off. When it is your turn at the top, a crewmember attaches a safety rope while attaching your harness onto the cable you will ride down on. I can always count on feeling the danger and risk while my heart pounds away in anticipation for what comes next. A thrilling ride awaits me if and when I can get myself to step off the ledge.

Every year, as I am climbing those stairs, I start thinking “maybe I am too old for this? Do I really need to do this? Why am I climbing all these stairs to then throw myself off a high ledge when I could be on the beach or floating in the lake?” The walk up to the platform is not my favorite part. Standing on the platform waiting to step off is especially uncomfortable and really not my favorite part. My brain is screaming thoughts like “what are you doing?”, “step away from the ledge” “are you really sure that little cable will hold you” and finally “this is crazy, don’t do it!”

I used to think that a really brave person wouldn’t feel or think any of those thoughts, but just confidently step right up and off. But the more I learn about vulnerability and courage the more that I realize that just because I feel vulnerable does not mean I am not brave. In fact, Brené calls the willingness to be vulnerable “our most accurate measure of courage”. Also, I don’t know about you, but the last thing I need is to beat myself up about not having the “right” feelings when I am trying to do something challenging.

So this last year I faced the zip line a little differently. I saw the stairs as a necessary part of the journey even if it wasn’t my favorite. I still felt nervous on the platform, but I told myself it is supposed to feel this way as it is risky and a bit dangerous. Also, its okay if I don’t like it. But it’s all part of the experience I have to go through to get to the next part. It’s the reason why I do all of those steps and stand on a scary ledge. I have to do those things to be able to have the thrilling ride of zipping down the hill surrounded with beautiful scenic views and the amazing adrenaline that accompanies the journey. You see there is a reason why I trek up that hill each year (sometimes I even go more than once in a day). For me, when I take the journey, face my fear and step off that ledge I get an experience that makes me feel totally alive and that is worth it! I don’t have to step off the ledge, but that also means I won’t get to have the ride! It reminds me of a Brené Brown quote that talks about the adventure of the wholehearted journey.

“Choosing to live and love with our whole hearts is an act of defiance. You’re going to confuse, piss-off, and terrify lots of people-including yourself. One minute you’ll pray that the transformation ends, and the next minute you’ll pray that it never ends. You’ll also wonder how you can feel so brave and so afraid at the same time…brave, afraid, and totally alive!”-Brené Brown

Even though we may be walking towards change of our own choosing or it is being thrust upon us, I think it’s important to remember, it is okay that we may not enjoy the walking up or the waiting. We may even want it to end quicker than is possible or to forget the whole thing. But it is also important to be awake to the parts of the journey that make us feel alive. And as I tell myself when I find myself grumbling about walking up to my next platform (whether it is a project I am working on or a change I am facing) ”You don’t have to like this part, but remember when you step off the ledge, don’t forget to enjoy the ride!”

Military Consumer Protection Awareness

Military Consumer Protection Day, on July 15, brought together several military and financial organizations who are supporting military families by providing resources to protect against fraud.
Military families are too often victims of financial fraud. Deployments and frequent moves make the military community vulnerable targets, but there are so many protective measures available. Tips, resources and expertise were shared by financial and military support organizations during a July 15 Twitter Chat. Below you can read many of the tweets that were shared about Military Consumer Protection Day.
Connect with the Personal Finance team on Twitter by following us @MFLNPF.

Motivating Behavior Change: The 5 As


by Robin Allen MSPH, RDN, LDN

When I was in private practice I thought I could change the world one client at a time.  What I did not count on is my client’s unwillingness to change, no matter how much great information  and wisdom I imparted.  With one in three people in the United States suffering from hypertension and  obesity growing how can we help our patients change their lifestyles to help themselves?

To follow up on last week’s webinar, Hypertension Update: Nutritional Guidelines and Strategies, I learned that the 5 As has been used with success to motivate lifestyle changes.

The 5 As assessment system was originally developed for smoking cessation.  However, it is easily adapted to all lifestyle changes, including obestity.

The 5 A framework:

  • Ask, Advise, Agree/Assess, Assist, Arrange
  1. Ask– Ask permission to discuss weight; be nonjudgmental and explore the patient’s readiness for change.
  2. Agree/Assess– Assess body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and obesity stage; explore barriers to change and complications of excess weight.
  3. Advise– In a clear, strong, and personalized manner. Advise the patient about the health risks of obesity, the benefits of modest weight loss, the need for a long-term strategy, and treatment options.
  4. Assist– Help the patient set realistic weight-loss or other behavior expectations, targets, behavioral changes, and specific details of the treatment plan.
  5. Arrange– identify and address barriers; provide resources, assist in finding and consulting with appropriate providers, and arrange regular follow-up. Schedule a follow-up contact, in person, email or by telephone, preferably within the first week.
  • The 5 As have been studied since mid-1990s for smoking cessation, substance abuse and more recently for lifestyle behavior change
  • Recommended in 2002 by U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)
  • Recommended in 2011 by USPSTF as a safe and effective way to counsel patients about their obesity.
  • Adopted in 2011 by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid for intensive behavioral therapy for obesity.

Can you make use of the 5 As in your practice?

Think about how you can help  your patients/clients to make even small changes to improve their lifestyle and health risk factors.




2014 Evidence-Based Guideline for Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults Report from the Panel Members Appointed to the 8th Joint National Committee.  James PA, Oparil S, Carter BL et al. JAMA. 2014; 311 (Feb 5):507-20.

Vallis M1, Piccinini-Vallis H, Sharma AM, Freedhoff Y, Clinical review: modified 5 As: minimal intervention for obesity counseling in primary care. Can Fam Physician. 2013 Jan;59(1):27-31.

Kolasa July 22, 2015 Hypertension Update: Nutritional Guidelines and Strategies.  eXtension Learn Event Materials Slides

This post was written by Robin Allen, member of the Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) Nutrition and Wellness team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families.  Find out more about the MFLN Nutrition and Wellness concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter and on LinkedIn.