Counseling Female Military Veterans in Career Transition: Integrating Wellness and Career Models

By G. Gail Rouse, Lesley Riley and Natasha Barnes

Foundational Research

The number of women entering the military is projected to reach 23 million by 2040, an increase of approximately16% (National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, 2016). As a result, more female veterans are expected to transition into the civilian workforce at the conclusion of their military service. Compared to male veterans, these women are more likely to experience reintegration issues such as underemployment, mental health and PTSD concerns, and difficulty balancing the career development process with other life roles (Reppert, Buzzetta, & Rose, 2014; Simpson & Armstrong, 2009). Therefore, it would be beneficial for the counseling profession to implement a combination of mental health and career guidance services that identify and address the aforementioned issues for these clients. This article discusses related models, interventions, assessments, and considerations for counseling professionals who work with veteran women in transition.


A Case Study

Sharon was discharged from the Army in 2013. During the past two years, she has held several jobs that are not related to her experience as a junior officer with a nursing specialty. Sharon is single, suffers from depression, and is the primary caregiver for her aging parents and children. Sharon is experiencing difficulty maintaining consistent employment and has recently sought services from a licensed professional counselor.


The above story is a sampling of the complexity of challenges facing female military veterans in career transition, including mental health issues, work/life balance, and career indecision. Career counselors are advised to utilize intervention models focusing on a range of dimensions to facilitate client understanding of how to achieve mental health and work/life integration.


A Wellness Model

Myers and Sweeney’s (2005) Indivisible-Self Model asserts that the self is at the core of wellness. The five factors of the Indivisible-Self model are:

  1. Creative Self: thinking, emotions, work, control, positive humor;
  2. Coping Self: leisure, stress management, self-worth, and realistic beliefs;
  3. Social Self: friendship and love;
  4. Essential Self: spirituality, gender identity, cultural identity, and self-care; and
  5. Physical Self: exercise and nutrition.

The above factors are influenced by ecological contexts that include local, institutional, global events, and lifespan. Research from Degges-White and Myers (2006) found utility of the wellness approach when working with women in transition. Specifically, the use of the five factors of wellness or “5-FWel” (Myers & Sweeney, 2005) above may facilitate this process. Counseling interventions based on the Indivisible-Self Model involve:


A Career Model

The Kaleidoscope Career Model, or KCM (Mainiero & Sullivan, 2005), recognizes the changing life patterns of women. Similar to a “kaleidoscope,” the work/life balance of women may “shift” at various points, requiring an adjustment or readjustment to meet new demands. Based on the KCM, the authors identified three parameters applicable to the life patterns and career development of women:

  1. Authenticity: by being true to self, relevant to work and non-work values;
  2. Balance: integration of life and work decisions; and
  3. Challenge: the need to engage in leadership roles and meaningful work adding to self-worth.

As female veterans enter the civilian workforce post military service, they are often faced with balancing the complexities of finding relevant employment, managing family responsibilities, and identifying social support structures (Simpson & Armstrong, 2009). The KCM could be useful in facilitating successful transition of women veterans by providing guidelines for counseling interventions and selection of relevant assessments. Counseling interventions based on the KCM involve:





Ethical Responsibility

The American Counseling Association Code of Ethics (2014) and the National Career Development Association Code of Ethics (2015) established principles that guide the ethical responsibility of counselors in the delivery of counseling and career services. Prosek & Holm (2012) suggest mental health professionals identify specific ethical standards and decision-making models relevant to working with veterans. These may include standards related to confidentiality, informed consent, cultural awareness, counselor competence, selection of assessments and interpretation of results. A focus on these standards will enhance ethical practices when working with female veterans in transition.


Recommendations for Counselors

The complexity of experiences that military women in career transition face may include economic, social, family, mental health, physical health, and career exploration concerns. This can necessitate counseling interventions that occur in multiple settings (e.g., higher education, hospitals, and community agencies) and focus on interventions and assessments that address the diverse concerns mentioned above. Linehan and Scullion (2008) found that psychosocial, social support and counseling provide an integral means of supporting career development. Hilton and Anderson (2009) recommended that counselors capitalize on a client’s strengths by focusing on a sense of mastery, self-efficacy, and life satisfaction in the process of supporting an involuntary career transition. Use of the Indivisible-Self Model (Myers & Sweeney 2005) and the Kaleidoscope Career Model (Mainiero & Sullivan, 2005) may facilitate positive adaptive strategies for military women in career transition. These models encourage self-reflection in clients and examine a range of dimensions that impact client’s work/life balance. Successful facilitation of these interventions may be enhanced thorough competency and understanding of military culture to address the unique professional development challenges of female veterans.


References & Resources

American Counseling Association. (2014). Code of ethics and standards of practice. Alexandria VA: Author.

Degges-White, S. & Myers, J. E. (2006). Transitions, wellness and life satisfaction: Implications for counseling midlife women. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 28(2), 133-150.

Heppner, M. J., Multon, K., & Johnston, J. A. (1994). Assessing psychological resources during career change: Development of the Career Transitions Inventory. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 44, 55-74.

Hilton, J. M., & Anderson, T. L. (2009). Characteristics of women with children who divorce in midlife compared to those who remain married. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 50(5), 309.

Linehan, M., & Scullion, H. (2008). The development of female global managers: The role of mentoring and networking. Journal of Business Ethics, 83(1), 29-40. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10551-007-9657-0.

Liptak, J. (2011). Barriers to success inventory. Indianapolis, IN: JIST Publishing.

Liptak, J. (2012). Military-to-Career transition inventory. St. Paul, MN: JIST Career Solutions. 

Mainiero, L. A., & Sullivan, S. E. (2006). Kaleidoscope Career Self-Assessment Inventory (KCSI). Retrieved from http://www.theoptoutrevolt.com/questions.html.

Mainiero, L. A., & Sullivan, S. E. (2005) Kaleidoscope careers: An alternate explanation for the “opt-out” revolution. Academy of Management Executive, 19, 106-123.

Myers, J. E., & Sweeney, T. J. (2005b). Counseling for wellness: The Five Factor Wellness Inventory, Adult (5F-WEL-A). Palo Alto, CA: Mindgarden.

Myers, J. E. & Sweeney, T. J. (2005e). The indivisible self: An evidence-based model of wellness. Journal of Individual Psychology, 61, 269-279. (Reprinted from Journal of Individual Psychology, by J. E. Myers and T. J. Sweeney, 2004).

Myers, J. E., & Sweeney, T. J. (2006). The Five Factor Wellness & Habit Change Workbook. Retrieved from www.mindgarden.com.

National Career Development Association (NCDA). (2015). Code of Ethics. Broken Arrow, OK: Author. Retrieved from https://associationdatabase.com/aws/NCDA/asset_manager/get_file/3395?ver=738701

Prosek, E. A., & Holm, J. M. (2014). Counselors and the military: When protocol and ethics conflict. The Professional Counselor 4(2), 93–102.

Reppert, M. L., Buzzetta, M., & Rose, T. (2014). Implications for practice: Assisting female veterans in their career development. Career Planning and Adult Development Journal, 30(3), 80-91.

Simpson, A., & Armstrong, S. (2009). From the military to the civilian work force: Addressing veteran career concerns. Career Planning and Adult Development Journal, 25(1), 177-187.

Super, D. E. & Nevill, D. D. (1986). The Values Scale: Theory, research, and application. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.

U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs (2016). National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics. Retrieved from: http://www.va.gov/vetdata/docs/QuickFacts/Population_quickfacts.PDF.



Gail RouseG. Gail Rouse, Ph.D., LPC, is an Associate Professor in the Counseling program at Argosy University, Atlanta campus. She has a master’s degree and doctorate in counseling psychology. She has presented at national and local conferences related to the field of human services, mental health, and career development. Her research focus is in the area of human services, career development, and program evaluation. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Georgia. Dr. Rouse is a member of NCDA and additional professional organizations. Dr. Rouse may be contacted at grouse@argosy.edu.



Lesley RileyLesley Riley, Ph.D., LPC, NCC, CPCS, is an Associate Professor in the Counseling Department at Argosy University, Atlanta. She has a master’s degree in Secondary School Guidance and a doctorate in Counselor Education. Her research interests include, autism advocacy, and wellness interventions for human services professionals. She has presented at national and local conferences related to the field of human services, mental health, and career development. Dr. Riley is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Professional Counselors Supervisor in the State of Georgia, as well as a National Certified Counselor. Dr. Riley may be contacted at leriley@argosy.edu.



Natasha BarnesNatasha Barnes, M.S. is currently a doctoral candidate in Counselor Education and Supervision at Argosy University, Atlanta campus. She has a B.S. in Psychology, a M.S. in Counseling. She has extensive experience as an online instructor and a mobile assessment counselor. She has held various positions in the field of human services. Her research interests include career counseling/planning and mental health services for veterans and their families. She holds memberships in professional organizations. Currently, she is pursuing licensure as a professional counselor in the state of Georgia. Natasha may be contacted at NatashaBarnes0@stu.argosy.edu.



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Ellen Weaver Paquette   on Friday 09/02/2016 at 09:03 AM

A very helpful article, I enjoyed reading and have passed it on to faculty in my department.

Gail Liebhaber   on Monday 09/05/2016 at 03:08 PM

So glad to hear about your work on behalf of female veterans. My client also suffered from being bullied and attacked in her unit-- another topic perhaps for future research.

Dr. Jordan   on Tuesday 09/06/2016 at 10:26 AM

Wow! This is one of the best pieces of research work on female veteran issues that I have ever seen! As a Faculty Advisor for the Student Veterans of America Chapter on my campus, a retired Air Force officer, and a research expert for the last 24 years (four masters degrees and a doctorate in education), I am proud of the work that you all have done here. It addresses so many facets of the unique problems that female veterans face when they transition from the military. I am so glad to have a document that is based on empirical data and so comprehensively addresses the issues AND adds methods and resources that we can tap into as we service our student veterans, male and female.
Thank you for this wonderful work. I will share it with my circle of veterans and use it to make my service to them more effective.

Paulette Jordan

Terrence Daniels   on Thursday 09/08/2016 at 03:11 PM

This article had many shortcomings including a lack of clarity and direction. Its use of a single statistical fact followed by a snippet from a case study and unsupported assumptions only confounded the issue leaving the reader wondering about the true significance of this issue. It’s lack of structure left me with the premises that the writers simply did not understand the basic fundamentals of academic writing as well as an understanding of case study review. Case studies should bring depth, reliability, validity, and a voice to the subject. These are the basic tenants that Robert K Yin prescribes to the basic structure and purpose of a case study review. Unfortunately, this article did not accomplish any of these objectives. I have been quite critical because the article, which focused on a subject matter that is extremely important, was simply substandard. In closing, I would suggest that the writers devote more time in learning and developing proper research techniques, especially with the case study qualitative approach.

Ret. SSGT Terrence Daniels MS, ABD

Samara Reynolds, Associate Editor for Career Convergence   on Friday 09/09/2016 at 09:52 AM

Mr. Daniels -- Thank you for taking the time to read this month's feature article and post a comment. As a point of clarification, Career Convergence web magazine, by design, is not intended to be an academic journal and we do not allow the space for full case studies (950 word maximum for entire piece). Based on the idea of providing a brief and digestible introduction for our readership to an important subject in career counseling, we believe the writers did a very nice job. We would of course welcome additional articles deep-diving into elements of this topic if you or others would like to connect with us to publish.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of this organization.