Veteran Couples Connect Program
Who are we?
The Institute for Military & Veteran Family Wellness is a joint effort between the Steve Hicks School of Social Work and the Dell Medical School Department of Psychiatry at the University of Texas at Austin.
The institute serves as a hub for researchers and community members to collaborate on identifying the most effective programs and practices that support service members, veterans, their caregivers, and their family members.
What is Veteran Couples Connect?
The Veteran Couples Connect (VCC) program is a new initiative that provides free treatment for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to veteran couples. Couples will receive Cognitive Behavioral Conjoint Therapy for PTSD (CBCT-PTSD). Unlike other PTSD treatments, Cognitive Behavioral Conjoint Therapy for PTSD provides care to the couple rather than the individual and uses the strength of the relationship to help move treatment forward.
The program is delivered in a group, with five veteran couples meeting together once a week for 8 weeks with two clinicians who guide couples through the treatment together and help strengthen their relationship. Our goal is to serve 30 veteran couples in the Austin , Belton, and Killeen areas over the next year.
After completing treatment, the couples will attend an all-expenses paid weekend retreat in the Texas Hill Country to celebrate their hard work. Each couple will also receive a date night voucher for a local date night out to ensure they find time to have fun with each other in the midst of their busy lives.
Why is this important?
Roughly 3.3 million veterans have served since 9/11—nearly twenty percent of whom experience PTSD. This number is staggering, and doesn’t capture the impact of service on friends, family members, and other loved ones. While much of the focus is on the veteran and their experience with PTSD, few people are aware that partners can also develop secondary traumatic stress if their partner has PTSD. This secondary traumatic stress makes it essential for spouses to be a part of treatment as well.
In 2015, we established the Texas Veteran Spouse Network (VSN), out of the belief that connecting veteran spouses with each other can provide much-needed peer support to veteran spouses and their families. Through our conversations with spouses whose partner suffers from PTSD, we have heard stories of pain, loss, and isolation—but we have also heard stories of perseverance, commitment, love, and resilience. Relationships are uniquely affected by PTSD, and also require support and attention.
Last year, we served 21 veteran couples who were seeking support for their marriage. While the program was designed to address foundational relationship needs unique to the veteran population, many of the couples’ struggles were inextricably connected to PTSD. More than 1/3 of individuals screened positive for PTSD, and many listed it as the main reason they felt they were struggling in their relationship. The Veteran Couples Connect program addresses these unique needs by providing an innovative, evidence-based treatment for PTSD within the relationship—with the dual goals of reducing symptoms and increasing relationship satisfaction.
Why do we need your help?
VCC has been awarded the Texas Veteran Family Alliance (TV+FA) grant from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. We have raised nearly $75,000 in in-kind donations, and only need another $15,000 to guarantee we can serve all 30 veteran couples. With your support, we can achieve this goal! Every dollar you donate will be matched 1:1 by HHSC, which doubles your impact!
How you can help?
We appreciate anything you can give to help us reach our goal of serving 30 veteran couples in the next year. Check out our levels for examples of what your donation can provide. Help us purchase much needed supplies for our couples, fund one couple’s date night out, or help us provide a whole cohort of veteran couples with 8 weeks of free treatment! Remember, anything you donate will be doubled by our funder, so if you can only give a small gift, please know that it will have a huge impact! Please help us serve those who have sacrificed so much to serve us.