Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Making It on Civvy Street: An Online Survey of Canadian Veterans in Transition/Réussir Sa Transition Vers la Vie Civile : Sondage En Ligne Des Ex-Membres Des Forces Canadiennes En Situation De Transition

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Making It on Civvy Street: An Online Survey of Canadian Veterans in Transition/Réussir Sa Transition Vers la Vie Civile : Sondage En Ligne Des Ex-Membres Des Forces Canadiennes En Situation De Transition

Article excerpt

After the guns have stopped and the explosions have died down, what happens back home? Transition has been examined from many different viewpoints, for example, (a) school- to-work transition (Finnie, 2004), (b) cross-cultural transition (Arthur, 2001 ; Chen, 2004), (c) re-entry transition (Arthur, 2003; Walling, Eriksson, Meese, Ciovica, & Gorton, 2006), (d) multiple reacculturation (Onwumechili, Nwosu, Jackson, & James-Hughes, 2003), (e) prison to community re-entry (Visher & Travis, 2003), (f) retirement transition (Marshall, Clarke, & lantyne, 2001), and (g) work transition (Borgen, 1997).

Transitioning from military to civilian life is a topic that has received much attention in recent years. The transition process for military members into civilian society can be seen as a cross-cultural transition (Black, Westwood, & Sorsdahl, 2007) and may represent a retirement transition, a work transition (Borgen, 1 997), or both. A retirement transition occurs when military members withdraw from military service and make the decision to not pursue further work in a similar or new sector; in contrast, a work transition occurs when former military personnel continue employment with a different sector. Both types of transition can be extremely impactful and, depending on a variety of factors, can cause difficulties for veterans and their families. This is due in large part to the influence that a military career can have on individuals, as working in the military and in war zones can be profoundly stressful (Rosebush, 1998).

The military presents an example of a distinct role-based subculture that differs markedly from civilian life; as such, its members undergo experiences with unique impacts. Structure forms the core of military life, and clear, absolute, and rigid rules dominate day-to-day existence. The issues of power, rank, responsibility, compliance, and camaraderie are central to the military organization, and strong feelings of discipline and loyalty are instilled. New recruits are quickly trained to lose their sense of autonomous individuality, a view that is in sharp contrast to the typical North American mindset where uniqueness is valued and often leads to success (Armstrong, 2008). Additionally, soldiers are taught how to react quickly and often violently to danger (Bradley, 2007), and, as a result, responding with violence can become almost automatic for some soldiers (Matsalds, 2007). Responsibility and loyalty to comrades are crucial components of military life, and members are acculturated to believe that they are responsible for the lives of those around them (Westwood, Black, Kammhuber, &McFarlane, 2008).

Much of the research tends to focus on the role of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in military members (Asmundson, 2002; Kent, 2000; Marin, 2002; Rosebush, 1 998). However, Black et al. (2007) state that a myriad of other issues may arise as military members make the transition into civilian life. Both as a result of military service and as a result of leaving the military, possible issues that might arise include (a) physical and psychological injuries resulting from combat and non-combat situations, (b) health issues, (c) substance abuse issues, (d) learning how to function in a non-structured environment, (e) friendship difficulties, (f) family discord, (g) difficulties with authority, (h) issues of perceived support, and (i) identity issues.

As Westwood et al. (2008) describe, after discharge many military personnel experience isolation and aloneness as civilians, "often feeling misunderstood or simply out of place in the civilian world" (pp. 297-298). The experience of having a loyal group of buddies abruptly comes to an end, and as the separation from this primary community that has lent meaning to their lives continues, no substitute is found (Sweet, Stoler, Kelter, tk. Thurrell, 1989). The lack of connection with others can exacerbate veterans' transitional process, increasing their susceptibility to other problems, including family difficulties and the excessive use of alcohol and/or other substances. …

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