Date of Award

Summer 7-2-2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

PhD Counseling Psychology

Department

Professional Psychology and Family Therapy

Advisor

Pamela Foley, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Minsun Lee, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John Smith, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Corinne Datchi, Ph.D.

Keywords

rural, veterans, rural couples, rural veterans, post-deployment

Abstract

There is no shortage of research and commentary on the difficulties and stressors that result from military combat deployment. The mental, emotional and physical consequences for the deployed soldier are well documented. The struggles faced by their family that stays behind also have a healthy base of research detailing their experience. Less attention has been paid to the impact that these deployments have on their community and even less on the community’s impact on the soldier and their family. While rural towns contribute a large number of military personnel nationwide, the deployment experience of the rural couple is not well researched. This study was intended to address the gaps in this research by gathering the experiences of rural military couples and how they perceived their experience of navigating the stress of deployment and post-deployment in their small communities. The following research questions guided this study: (1) How do rural military couples experience deployment and post-deployment transition? (2) What, if any, are the unique concerns and challenges raised by this specific population? (3) What, if any, are the unique strengths and resources within this specific population? The research was conducted using a qualitative approach to collect detailed information to answer these questions, and understand the lived experience of these rural military couples as they reflected on deployment and post-deployment transition in their small town context. The finding of this study indicated that the experience of rural military couples is highly conflicted. It is heavily influenced by rural culture and military culture. Each facet of their experience, (deployment, post-deployment, and rural life) carried it’s own risk and protective factors. The couple’s specifically identified variables of powerlessness, unexpected and unintended change, adaptability, forgiveness, community intrusion, and community support as factors that influenced their experience. The couples identified them in the context of complex interplay that could put these variables in a paradoxical relationship. Overwhelmingly, the couples found their communities to be a source of strength and given the choice would not change their experience. Limitations, implications for future research, and clinical implications for rural military couples and psychological professionals are also discussed.

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