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The Daily Collegian - UM to help Army families

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UM to help Army families

By: Ben Williams, Collegian Staff

Posted: 10/24/07

Free support groups for families with parents serving in the military will be offered by the
Psychological Service Center (PSC) at the University of Massachusetts starting in November.

Of the two groups, one is designed to support parents trying to maintain healthy relationships and
co-parents with partners deployed away from home. The other is focused around children with parents
serving in the armed forces.

"The content of the children's group depends somewhat on the age range of the children that end up
attending the group," said Dr. Christopher Overtree, director of the PSC. "But the focus of this group
will be dealing with the stress and anxiety about having a parent in a war zone."

According to the PSC, family members of troops serving abroad face numerous challenges that
compound the difficulty of separation, such as fear for the active duty member, extended periods of
deployment and multiple tours of duty.

The increased periods of deployment may also create additional stress for family members at home
trying to maintain healthy relationships and parent effectively.

"[I] think it is important that we all think about ways that we can reach out to military families and
returning military personnel,"

Overtree said. "It is almost impossible to predict what the needs will be, but they may require services,
flexibility in adapting educational rules to accommodate people on active duty and respect for the stress
and life disruption that military families have been experiencing over the course of this conflict."

The inspiration for the group came from two Ph.D students, Susan Balaban and Courtney Baker, and a
member of the University clinical health department faculty, Rebecca Stowe.

"There have been many other groups of this nature, organized at both the national and local level,"
Overtree said. "We simply became interested in finding a way that we could provide support to our
community members in the military…knowing that it might lead to other services and help us
understand other areas in which mental health centers like us could provide programming."

"These families have already mastered many of the challenges of existing in a military environment, but
during times of conflict, can benefit from additional supports from their local communities," said Dr.
Holly Parker, a clinical postdoctoral fellow at the Jamaica Plain Department of Veterans Affairs.

"There was not necessarily a 'demand' [for the program] per se," Overtree said. "Rather, it was clear that
services were in need, and unclear whether military families would ask for these services. Since we have
begun advertising this program…we have gotten a very positive response, many people just thanking us
for making this program available, and others suggesting different services we might be able to begin."

More information about the program and enrollment can be found on the center's Web site at

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The Daily Collegian - UM to help Army families

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