By Chaplain Richard A. Hansen, M.Sc., M.Div., BCC

For many of us, we now find ourselves hoisting our sails and preparing to navigate New Year 2017 after coming out of 2016 with renewed thoughts and feelings of hope, joy, peace, love, reflection, and expectation experienced and received through the holiday season, whether from Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or some other celebration with family, friends, or in a private setting.  Fulfilled expectations of 2016 with companion 2017 course settings energize us to welcome and address the events we will encounter during this new set of months that may contain detours, dry wells, dead ends, and dark valleys along with achievements, crossroads, promising horizons, and breakthroughs of enlightenment.

However, for many of our Veterans, now trying to adjust back to civilian life with spouses and partners, they find themselves on the uncertain path of transition from the military battlefield to social trench warfare of confusion, communication breakdown, anger, resentment, regret, guilt, and reversed culture shock. Frequent deployments and PTSD can wear on relationships, destabilizing them, stifling healthy growth, and hampering reconciliation and forgiveness. In the midst of this uncertainty, Veterans may be at a loss as to where to go for good support that is easily accessible and affordable.

Your VA Medical Center recognizes this, and has assembled and mobilized an interdisciplinary team of caring employees who are current certified Warrior to Soul Mate (W2SM) instructors, a of PAIRS Essentials program, which is a proven and world-wide approach to help people reconnect with their loved ones. Your VA W2SM workshop team comprises gifted people from different disciplines in the healthcare fields: social work, medicine, education, nursing, health administration, polytrauma, psychology, readjustment counseling, caregiver support, pharmacy, chaplaincy and performance improvement.

The W2SM Weekend Workshop, held at the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center, offers Veterans, and their spouses or partners, a toolbox of communication essentials with proven potential to result in improved speaking and listening skills, conflict resolution, and identification of issues that impair, sabotage, or prevent relationships from healthy growth in the emotional, physical, and spiritual facets of life. The” Goodwill Umbrella” of caring, communication, commitment, and change are emphasized along with empathy, compassion, and bonding. A sense of community is established during the workshop as couples have opportunities to coach and be coached by fellow couples during communication exercises, such as Talking Tips, Daily Temperature Reading, Emptying the Emotional Jug and Fair Fight for Change. Instructors are present and engaged with participants. Couples receive support from other couples who may have similar experiences, and therefore convey a strong understanding.

Participant feedback on the 2016 workshops has been very positive: “Improved overall listening skills;” “We learned better ways to approach addressing hurt or change in our relationships;” “Our relationship was on the verge of falling apart and now I have a lot of hope;” “I thought this was great because you now know you are not alone;” “We now have a new way to communicate;” “…the instructors broke the topics down to my level of learning- that was decreased with a brain injury.” As W2SM facilitators, we desire for these words of appreciation, healing and hope to replicate themselves in the lives of our 2017 participants.

This workshop is offered to all Veterans and active duty military personnel free of charge. To enroll in the workshop, one must be in a relationship for at least six months with no domestic violence during that time period, and be eligible for VA care. Four weekend workshops are scheduled for 2017: January 28-29; April 29-30; July 22-23; October 21-22. The workshops will be held in Building 41 (main building), on the 5th floor in Medical Conference Room 5C 100, starting at 8:30 AM and finishing at 4:00 PM each day.

To register for a workshop or for more information, please call Albuquerque VAMC Chaplain Services at 505-256-2735. Brochures are available at Chaplain Services (Bldg. 41, Rm. 2A-104 by the chapel) and in many waiting areas. In order to provide effective instruction and individual attention, classes will be limited to seven couples or less.




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