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Chris Allen
Nov 16, 2011

Day 7 (part 1) –At the Vine and Branch- For Returning Veterans and Their Families

Note: Designated Staff is on call for emergencies and there are no formal individual or group sessions scheduled. Why you might ask? Well for starters, everyone needs a break from work, especially the Vine and Branch Staff. In your individual practices, are you tempted not to take a day off because you feel the pressure to meet the “bottom line?”Are you better Counselors when you do not take time off?

I think day 7 is a good place to discuss what V&B will look like from a staff perspective, so part 1 will focus on the Staff and part 2 will focus on our friend’s Jim and Fran, including a description of activities on the Ranch.

As Counselors, I am sure that you can appreciate the need for boundaries and some time off, and are probably wondering how an organization like V&B will be able to set effective boundaries between staff and guests, especially since everyone will live on the ranch together. If the thought has not come to mind yet and you are interested in the concept I am proposing, then the potential risks and rewards are worth considering. Please point things out that I am missing here.
Risks: The risks that initially come to my mind as I work on the V&B model revolve around boundaries, safety, and the affects of isolation on our staff members.

Boundaries: Boundary setting is obviously a healthy and necessary part of the therapeutic process, no surprise here for all of you. And after six days of seeing guests on the Ranch, V&B staff members probably need a break.

As I see it, day 7 should be a day of rest for both staff and guest. Does this mean total separation between the two? With the way V&B will be set up, I guarantee that total separation is not possible outside of standard sessions. Inevitably, staff will have chance interactions with guests while at Church, at the store, or while enjoying some of V&Bs amenities. In actuality, the types of interactions that are possible are no different than what many of you already experience as Counselors. The only difference, and it may be a big one depending on the Counselor, is the increase in frequency.

The bottom line is that anyone working at the V&B must be comfortable, willing, and able to set up boundaries within a close knit community. The interactions that are inevitable while living in a small community like V&B are incredibly valuable and an intrinsic aspect of the Military culture. A Counselor must be comfortable with this process and living situation.

Safety: If I were deciding on whether or not to come and work for an organization like the Vine and Branch, I would first analyze the job offer while wearing my husband and father hats, asking the following questions.

What type of guests will V&B assist? What are the backgrounds of the clients vacationing at the V&B? If my family is living on the same ranch as the people that I see, are there security issues that I must be concerned with?

Well, let’s start with the type of clients that V&B will not be able to assist due to numerous factors. V&B will not see individuals who are convicted of felonies or clients who are: psychotic, homicidal, or suicidal at the time of check in.

Potential Isolation and the inevitable “cabin fever” are issues that our staff may need to contend with, depending on the proximity of the ranch to surrounding towns, etc..

I think that V&B’s rewards will outweigh the risks. Counselors and guests will benefit from living in a shared community, modeling, stability, material generation, and the ranch surroundings.

Chris Allen is a counselor and an Army Officer just returning from Afghanistan. He is passionate about developing counseling practices that best address Veterans and their families. Blog comments are not representative of the Army or Department of Defense.

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