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Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 12.02.37 PMby Jaine Darwin, PsyD

Families of National Guard and Reserves represent an underserved population which is isolated in communities instead of residing on bases or in military towns.

Strategic Outreach to Families of All Reservists (SOFAR) is a pro bono mental health project that offers support, therapy, psycho-education and prevention services to the extended family members of National Guard, Reserves, and veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. SOFAR was founded in 2004.

We chose to work with families of National Guard and Reserves because they represent an underserved population which is isolated in communities instead of residing on bases or in military towns.  They are the only group who can cycle from soldier to citizen to soldier within a two year period. Time Magazine called them “suddenly military families.” Our mission is to build resilience in these families, to prevent and or treat secondary traumatization and to prevent intergenerational transmission of trauma in the children and grandchildren of those who served.

Our Program

At the onset, SOFAR planned to only offer free psychotherapy. We quickly learned that the stigma associated with seeking mental health services often prevented reservists and their families from coming to us - so we went to them. We began by going to Family Readiness Groups (FRGs), which are military support groups for family members during a deployment. Our efforts gave birth to extensive psycho-education services that help families understand the universality of their reactions to deployment. In addition, we teach reunion and reintegration and other ways to expand their repertoire of coping skills. We now attend and teach classes at events sponsored by the Yellow Ribbon Program, a national program that offers assistance to troops and families before, during, and after deployment. We speak at grass roots veterans groups, groups for families of military suffering from traumatic brain injury (TBI), Blue-Star Mothers and Blue-Star Fathers, groups for parents of soldiers, and many other venues.
Currently operating in four states, we have impacted several thousand family members. We have also prepared the “SOFAR Guide for Helping Children and Youth Cope with the Deployment of a Parent in the National Guard or Other Military Reserves, which you can access on
www.sofarusa.org.

Our Organization

SOFAR has partnered with the American Psychological Association and the American Psychoanalytic Association. We operate chapters in Massachusetts, Michigan, New York City and Southeast Florida, and are currently helping the Texas Psychological Association start a chapter in Texas. SOFAR is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatricians.

Support from SOFAR volunteers has helped families reconstitute upon return and cope with the long period of acute stress, while adjusting to the new normal that might include a family member with PTSD, TBI or both. It is important we identify more psychologists throughout the country to aid the families of the 785,000 National Guard and Military Reserve troops who have deployed since 2001. We ask our volunteer psychologists to provide:

• treatment, conduct classes, and attend Family Readiness Group Meetings
• psycho-educational materials for veterans and their families
• training to non-mental health professionals like PCPs, teachers, nurses, and pastors

SOFAR provides training for volunteers so they will be culturally competent to work with the military families, as well as ongoing support to volunteers no matter what sector they choose or how much time they spend. Helping these families offers tremendous gratification for psychologists; they are some of the most grateful consumers with whom one could ever work.  These families need you and SOFAR wants to help you offer your services.  Our military families deserve the best psychological care. To get involved, contact us at help@sofarusa.org.

Dr. Darwin is the co-founder and co-director of SOFAR. She has been a Registrant since 1995.