Helping military families deal with the impact of family members serving in the war zone: An evaluation of services and outcomes (2008)

Many Canadian military families and communities were thrust into crisis as they experienced repeated rounds of deployment to Afghanistan. The impact on children and youth in these families is not well understood.

The Phoenix Centre for Children and Families serves civilian and military families in Renfrew County. Since 2005, the Phoenix Centre has become overwhelmed by an influx of military families requesting mental health services from their agency.

The Centre drew on a panel of clinical expertise, the body of research, and essential community input to develop an evidence-based and multi-faceted strategy to address the needs of military families. The approach included youth and adult focus groups to better understand the issues faced by the community and an analysis of relevant and targeted evidence-based practices in use around the world. The agency also evaluated its current programs and services. The focus was on informing the development of new programs and the adaptation of current services to meet the needs of these families.

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Research Report Round-ups are brief summaries of research reports, presented in a user-friendly format.

Title and link to report

Helping Military Families Deal with the Impact of Family Members Serving in the War Zone: An Evaluation of Services and Outcomes 


Greg Lubimiv, Lisa Hawkins, Karen Buyers, The Phoenix Centre for Children and Families 


Pembroke, Ontario, 2008

What is this report about?

Many Canadian military families and communities have been thrust into crisis as they experience repeated rounds of deployment to Afghanistan. The impact on children and youth in these families is not well understood. This report describes the results of an evaluation by the Phoenix Centre looking at its initiatives to help military families in Renfrew County cope with the stress of deployments of a family member. The goals were to: 

  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the existing services provided to military families in Renfrew County by the Phoenix Centre;
  • Research and implement new evidence-based programs specifically targeted to military families; and
  • Create a Lessons Learned Manual to disseminate information to other military bases and mental health agencies in Canada. 

The researchers conducted four types of research:

  • Focus groups with youth and parents to identify the main issues that military families are facing as well as the challenges/barriers to support group participation;
  • Teen feedback surveys from support group participants to better understand the needs and challenges of military youth;
  • A pilot study to test the effectiveness of two relaxation CDs (alpha CD and diffusion CD) provided to the Phoenix Centre; and
  • Internet research to identify existing programs, services, tools, literature related to evidence-based practice with military families.

Summary of findings: 

  • The parents who participated in the focus group said they would be interested in workshops related to the topics on a variety of topics (e.g., how to talk to kids about deployment; post-traumatic stress disorder; anxiety in children, etc.) and would participate in a support group if transportation and childcare were provided.
  • The youth who participated in focus groups identified three key issues they’re facing (drugs and alcohol; stress around school and family; separation and divorce).
  • The results of the pilot study looking at the effectiveness of listening to Brainwave Entrainment CD’s may help to reduce anxiety levels in some people. Two CD’s were compared:
  • The Alpha CD seemed to be effective for more participants than the diffusion CD at reducing anxiety levels. However, the diffusion CD appeared to have a greater effect on negative affect scores.
  • Although some evidence-based programs were identified and created (Friends for Life anxiety intervention and prevention program; Art of Living stress reduction program; .Children in the Middle divorce education program; trauma focused cognitive behavioural therapy), these were not sufficiently evaluated to measure outcome with military families.
  • The “lessons learned” document was not developed as it was too early in the process. 

    The report identifies the following next steps:
  • Take advantage of the new commitment from Children’s Mental Health Ontario to providing technical assistance with the implementation of evidence-based practices.
  • Continue to evaluate the Friends for Life program.
  • Create “lessons learned” manual.
  • Continue fostering an environment of information sharing and collaboration among community partners to ensure clients receive the right service at the right time from the right people.
  • Replace outdated, ineffective services with evidence-based, client-centered approaches. 

How can this report be used?

This report may be of help when planning programs to support military families. 

Type of study

Focus groups; feedback surveys; pilot study; Internet research 

Population addressed

Military families

Key words

Mental health, peer support, anxiety; military, families, children, parents

Contact person/source

The Phoenix Centre for Children and Families 130 Pembroke Street West, 2nd Floor Pembroke, ON K8A 5M8
613-735-2374 or 1-800-465-1870
mail [at] phoenixctr [dot] com