Researchers Receive Congressionally-Funded Support

Researchers at the Institute for Military and Veteran Family Wellness at The University of Texas at Austin were awarded $1.4 million from the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program to pilot a peer-led resiliency group for active-duty military spouses. The group will be administered and studied by researchers to evaluate how participation can help address stressors and improve quality of life.

The Congressionally Directed Military Research Program (CDMPR) strives to transform healthcare for military service-members and the American public through innovative and impactful research. Programs managed by the CDMRP share the common goal of advancing paradigm shifting research, solutions that will lead to cures or improvements in patient care, or breakthrough technologies and resources for clinical benefit.

The funding will support the adaptation and testing of a curriculum-based peer support group at Fort Hood, Texas called the Military Spouse Resiliency Group (M-SRG) Program. The program will train military spouses as peer leaders who facilitate supportive discussions with other active-duty spouses on relevant topics, and connect them to local and national resources to help address specific life issues.

The M-SRG is based on the Veteran Spouse Resiliency Group (V-SRG), a program currently run within the university’s Veteran Spouse Network. As active duty and veteran spouses have different experiences during and after military life, adaptation of this program will ensure that each session more specifically addresses unique stressors experienced by active-duty spouses.

The new program will be led by Elisa Borah, Director of the Institute for Military and Veteran Family Wellness, and research associate professor at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work. Her research is focused around the development, testing and effective implementation of mental health treatments and social supports for military-connected adults and children.

“This research will allow us to determine whether group-based peer support led by trained, peer military spouse leaders provides significant improvements to spouses’ sense of social and community support, self-care practices, mental health and quality of life,”. With this knowledge, we can support implementation that can allow scaling of the program to all Army spouses.”

As part of Dell Medical School and the Steve Hicks School of Social Work, the Institute for Military and Veteran Family Wellness serves as a home-base where researchers and community members work together to develop programs and practices needed by service members, veterans and their family members. The institute partners with local and national providers, researchers, and military and veteran community members who are committed to ensuring that military communities have access to effective care for their mental health and community-based needs.

Active duty military spouses undergo many stressors as part of their partners’ military service include extended separation, numerous moves, single parenting, relationship strains and understanding their service members’ health concerns. They may also struggle to establish careers or finish educational degrees due to the unpredictable nature of military life.

To learn whether the M-SRG program is effective in helping spouses, the three-year study will recruit Army spouses at Fort Hood, Texas to participate beginning in 2023. Upon completion, results will be widely disseminated to military leaders, program providers and the public. If results are favorable, this program may become available in many Army locations to provide support for military spouses throughout their lives in support of their families and service-members’ military careers.