Date of Conferral
Counselor Education and Supervision
Wynn N. Dupkoski
While it is commonly known that combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has profound, long-term effects on soldiers, its effects on spouses of affected soldiers are less understood. Some spouses who provide care for soldiers with PTSD develop symptoms that are similar in nature. These symptoms include but are not limited to depression, anxiety, isolation, hypervigilance, and a strong startle effect. This study explored the lived experiences of 8 spouses of Army Reservists who returned from deployment in either Iraq or Afghanistan with combat-related PTSD. This study used the couple adaptation to traumatic stress model to explore the couple's response to traumatic stress. The study also includes a discussion of the history of PTSD, including changes in criteria with the revisions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), including the most recent change in the latest version (DSM 5). Although secondary traumatic stress is not recognized in the DSM 5, an increase in awareness may result in a better understanding of mental health needs within the military culture. The study consisted of 8 semi-structured interviews among 8 female spouses of Army Reserve soldiers, using Colaizzi's method of data analysis. The results of this study identified psychological distress in all participants in connection with relationship changes, psychological distress, and lack of available mental health services. The results of this study may assist mental health professionals understand that the mental health needs of spouses of Reservists often differ from those of active duty spouses. This study may support social change by promoting the need for additional training for counselors who work with this population.