Coaching Into Care: VA Coaches Help Supporters of Veterans Make the Tough Decision to Get Help

Amber Walser, Psy.D.

According to The Department of Veterans Affairs, nearly 30 percent of Veterans serving in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11 who have been treated at V.A. hospitals and clinics have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Read about an innovative VA program that assists loved ones and friends who want to learn how to better support the Veteran in their life and encourage him or her to seek professional support.

Providing tools to support veterans
Judy, the girlfriend of an Army Veteran, called Coaching Into Care (CIC) with concerns about the combat stress and alcohol misuse her boyfriend was experiencing and the toll it was taking on their relationship. Her boyfriend would acknowledge the need for treatment but wouldn’t follow through, and they were quickly growing apart. A CIC call responder provided support and education about combat stress and encouraged Judy to take things slowly rather than to fix everything right away. Then, the call responder prepared Judy for the coaching process, which would connect Judy with a psychologist or social worker with whom she would speak over the phone during the coming weeks or months.

Talking on the phone with a coach from CIC over the next few months, Judy continued to receive support, validation, and education about PTSD. She learned how to communicate her feelings in ways that her boyfriend was better able to hear. She also followed up with referrals to start her own counseling with a therapist from Give An Hour.

During her involvement with the program, the CIC coach worked with Judy on ways to talk about available resources with her boyfriend. She was provided with a menu of options to choose from and the coach recommended that Judy and her boyfriend watch a video together on Combat Stress and PTSD. Within a month, the Veteran decided to contact a provider and entered into therapy. A month later, Judy was reporting improvement in the relationship and expressed gratitude for CIC’s services.

Acquiring skills to offer positive support
The call responders and coaches at Coaching Into Care help callers find new ways to talk with a Veteran about seeking help. Like Judy, many callers may lack understanding about alcohol or substance abuse, what PTSD is like, or how the Veteran’s military experience may make transitioning home more difficult.

Coaches aim to educate callers about these common issues so that they can interact positively with the Veteran while maintaining boundaries and not “pushing” too hard to get the Veteran into treatment. Coaches may work with a caller for a few weeks or few months to help them understand the course of mental illness, learn more effective communication styles, and link them with available VA or community resources in their area. With this assistance, callers learn ways to strengthen the family through positive communication and activity. Coaches have a variety of tools at their disposal. For example, they might use role plays and problem solving approaches to help the caller feel prepared to empower the Veteran to make the choice to seek care.

Armed with support tools and a coach to help them use them effectively is a win for both the Veteran and the family member. If you need help discovering new ways to talk with a Veteran about your concerns and treatment options, call Coaching Into Care at 1-888-823-7458. Visit the Facebook site for more resources and tools.

Next week’s CFYM post will provide more details about the resources available through this innovative program.


  • What are some of the challenges you have faced in getting your Veteran loved one or friend to seek professional help for mental health conditions?
  • What ideas do you have for helping families of Veterans deal with transitional issues?

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