School of Behavioral Sciences
Doctor of Education in Community Care and Counseling (EdD)
Mollie Boyd, Dwight Rice
military marriages, spiritual care, deployments, military chaplains, resiliency, pastoral care, chaplaincy, spirituality, stress, moral injury, trauma
Johnson, Carl Michael, "The Role of Military Chaplains and Effective Spiritual Care for Strengthening Military Marriages During Deployments" (2023). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 4214.
Military chaplains provide spiritual support and counseling to the military populations alongside conducting religious services. As a military process, chaplaincy operates as a liaison between military personnel, mental health professionals, and clinical marriage counselors. In this context, the military population is extensive and consists of military personnel, military chaplains, and their civilian families. It must be acknowledged that various service-motivated challenges confront these individuals. For instance, military marriages are threatened by lengthy deployment and family separations. Therefore, it is significant to contextualize military marriages’ coping, survival, and strengthening as most contemporary researchers have focused on this subject. Most studies have investigated several in-house mechanisms like spiritual care and outsourced coping agents like professional psychiatrists and marriage counselors among military populations (Bliese et al., 2008; Seddon et al., 2011). However, this study focused on interventions available at military facilities—chaplaincy and spiritual care. It is important to understand the role of spirituality as advanced by military chaplains as a coping mechanism among military personnel and a marriage-strengthening technique to verify its ability to improve marriage sustainability. Therefore, the study investigated the association between spirituality and marriage strengthening among military personnel. This phenomenological study aimed to examine the effectiveness of military chaplains and the spiritual care and support they provide to strengthen military marriages among military populations. As such, the study qualitatively examined the role of chaplains and spirituality among two military population participants—military personnel and chaplains at the Ellsworth Air Force Base. The theories guiding this study were the family stress theory advanced by Bowen (1971) and Selye’s (1956) stress theory, which helped explain the stressors in military marriages. Data were collected from semistructured, in-depth interviews with a study sample of 15 participants. The data were then transcribed, analyzed, and interpreted. The findings indicated that spiritual care provided by chaplains was critical in building trust and strengthening bonds among married couples. At the same time, spirituality equipped military couples with essential virtues for marriage stability. The study also found that psychological well-being was a critical factor in promoting healthy relationships and chaplains played a role in promoting the mental well-being of the military couples, which furthered the stability of the unions. Finally, the study acknowledged that other interventions and resources were critical in supporting strong marriages besides the spiritual care provided by chaplains. As such, couples were advised to join personal and family-oriented programs (e.g., marital counseling, the strong bonds program, and reintegration counseling) and use other resources to maintain their marriages.