VTC helps troubled couples

Story by Spc. Michael V. Camacho
139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION Q-WEST, Iraq — As video teleconferencing programs such as Skype grow in popularity, military marriage counselors are implementing them as a means of connecting and counseling separated couples.

For one half of couples serving in Q-West, Maj. James Boulware, 16th Sustainment Brigade chaplain, a Radcliff, Ky. native, said he helps them bridge the distance and manage deployment stress with VTC.

“The strength of the VTC is that you’re bringing the couples together and it’s a big difference,” said Boulware. “It brings a reality to the counseling.”

Couples with a deployed component, sometimes reach a point in their relationship where issues get in the way of their deep feelings for their spouse, he said.

Boulware said communication works on three levels: body language is a strong indicator of the speaker’s feelings and thoughts; tone shows signs of emotional state; words convey a message but have the least depth in the overall process. When all three levels are present, communication operates more effectively.

The VTC counseling involves both partners, and a chaplain on either side. In this way, the chaplains can act as mediators and advisers while observing each partner.

“We do marriage counseling in the rear and hold a Strong Bonds Seminar which addresses some issues, but sometimes the damage has already been done,” said Boulware.

Without the proper tools to communicate in the course of a year, couples can fight instead of growing in their relationship, he said.

Doing the marriage counseling via VTC allows couples a present-time conversation visually as well as verbally, said Capt. Gregory Jackson, chaplain of the 16th Sust. Bde. rear detachment, and a Crystal Spring, Miss., native.

 The VTC allows couples to address issues at the point when both couples are ready to seek immediate counseling, said Jackson.

Marital issues can negatively affect service members’ jobs and emotional states, but there are always ways to help them through their difficult times and keep them strong, said Boulware.

“It now becomes: we deploy, we work with the Soldier and then it’s a smooth transition into the redeployment stage where you can work with that couple,” said Boulware. “This allows us to start the process earlier.”