More Marriage and Family Counseling at Houston VA - Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas
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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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More Marriage and Family Counseling at Houston VA

Houston VA Answers the Need for More Marriage and Family Counseling

Left to right: Stacy McCarty, LMFT-S; Megan Langley, LMFT Associate; Laura Shely, LMFT-S; and Larry R. Bell, Jr., LMFT.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018
The Houston VA is now offering expanded services to Veterans and their families.  Among 85 new mental health providers recently hired by the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center is a team of licensed marriage and family therapists committed to helping Veterans improve their family relationships.

“While treating our veterans and their family members, we have seen an obvious need to broaden our emphasis to focus more on how individuals function in their primary relationship networks such as couple relationships and family units,” said Laura Marsh, M.D., Mental Health Care Line executive at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center. “We are pleased to have additional mental health care professionals who have special training in psychotherapy and family systems.” 

A 2018 study by Brigham Young University found that combat veterans' first marriages were 62 percent more likely to end in separation or divorce than other men's. The researchers compared divorce and separation rates between veterans who had seen combat and those who had not. They found that traumatic experiences like combat seem to have a persistent impact on the ability of people to form and maintain successful relationships.

“After my second tour in Afghanistan, my home life was pretty messed up. My wife and I just couldn’t talk without fighting,” said a veteran undergoing couples counseling at the Houston VA. “My wife actually reached out to the Houston VA for help. We been seeing a VA therapist for a couple of months now and things are getting better.”

The licensed marriage and family therapists at the Houston VA offer services like family education; brief problem-focused consultations; family psychoeducation; and individual, couples, and family therapy. Some specific programs include Integrative Behavioral Couple Therapy, an evidence-based treatment for couples having problems in their intimate relationships; Behavioral Family Therapy for veterans and family members struggling with severe mental illness; and Strength-at-Home therapy for individuals who engage in aggressive or abusive behaviors in their intimate relationships.

A new, 10-week Couples Group is scheduled to begin meeting soon on Tuesday evenings. The goal of this relationship education group is to reduce conflict, enhance trust and intimacy, and identify and understand negative patterns of interaction.

“While marriage and family therapists were reintroduced to the VA system in 2013, we are now expanding to meet the needs of our veterans,” said Marsh, who is also a professor at the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and in the Department of Neurology at Baylor College of Medicine. “Almost one third of consults in our General Mental Health Clinic have been requests for couples or family therapy.”

Veterans who are interested in VA Couples or Family Counseling Services should contact their Primary Care Team for a referral.

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