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New Program Launches for Couples Struggling With an OSI

A retired military couple, who faced the heartache accompanying operational stress injuries (OSI), designed a new program to help similar couples reopen lines of communication. Couples Overcoming PTSD Everyday (COPE), in conjunction with Wounded Warriors Canada, will launch at Bear Mountain Resort in Langford, British Columbia January 14, 2015.

Initially, five couples will participate in the retreat January 18-23. The itinerary includes lectures, demonstrations, practical stimulation training, and recreational activities all fine-tuned by experts in an effort to improve each couple’s communication skills while dealing with OSIs.

“We really had not anticipated how well things would come together. We have the support of the military, the community, and we are excited to get started. Around every turn we have discovered amazing and generous people,” said Lieutenant Colonel (ret’d) Chris Linford, co-founder of COPE.

As the COPE program proceeds through the trial period in British Columbia, plans are in the works to establish further programs in Ontario and Quebec next year. Linford’s goal is to offer the program in English and French.

As soon as Linford partnered with Wounded Warriors Canada, and information about COPE was posted to their website, COPE started to receive support. Linford believes people see how necessary the program is, and the public was looking for a call to action.

Scott Maxwell, Executive Director of Wounded Warriors Canada, commented, “Wounded Warriors Canada is focused not only our ill or injured Canadian Armed Forces members and veterans, but on the wellbeing and support of their families. As such, understanding the family-based design central to COPE, we were immediately onboard. We are proud to add COPE to our slate of programs and services we fund nationally, ensuring our veterans and their families have access to these outstanding programs they so rightly deserve.”

Common OSIs include PSTD, other anxiety disorders, depression, substance use disorders and other conditions that may interfere with daily functioning. Studies conclude that OSIs not only affect the service member but also their spouse and other family members.

The Canadian Armed Forces offers resources to military members, including therapy and coping strategies that can set people on the path to recovery. However, for some veterans the stigma of having an OSI leaves them suffering as they try to keep their battle to themselves, internalizing the pain and the confusion, hindering recovery.

Linford explained the COPE program was designed to move beyond individual therapy and move towards the importance of the family relationship, a relationship that once repaired can help the veteran’s health and ability to thrive in the community.

While the traditional approach of treating the individual is still relevant, treatment is moving toward focusing on the family, to create a stronger model where family healing is achieved together.

Linford and his wife Kathryn struggled with his OSI symptoms for years before Chris realized his PTSD was affecting his family. Symptoms including avoidance, changes in thoughts and moods, and changes in emotional reactions. His wife, Kathryn was heavily impacted by the changes in her husband. She became afraid to stand her ground, never really pushing for her own good.

When Linford finally faced the behaviours that were coming between he and his family, he began reopening lines of communication with his wife. By working on the challenges of PTSD together, they became more honest with one another. They found a new way to live, giving each other space to manage life as individuals and as a couple.

With his personal relationships back on track, Linford discovered he had more motivation and energy to apply to his own path to healing. The couple decided to use their personal journey to benefit other couples and COPE became a reality.

Make sure you check out Canadian Military Family Magazine’s Winter 2015 issue for more information on COPE.

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Vicki L Morrison

Thanks to her husband's military career Vicki reinvented herself as a writer so she could work from home, while taking care of their three kids. A former MFRC executive director Vicki is a passionate advocate for military families who loves telling their stories.

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