Our Shared Experience
By Dr. Ingrid Herrera-Yee
MSBHC Founder and President
As military spouses, we know all too well that there are so many great things about our life, but there are also the challenges. The beauty of this life is that we are blessed with family wherever we go. From duty station to duty station and even online, we can find family. We meet fellow spouses and service members on base housing, at the commissary, at our local churches, in our communities and even online. Because we move so much and have to adapt so readily, we become adept at making “family” everywhere we go.
Remember a moment ago when I talked about the challenges? Well, it’s this family that helps us get through them. They help us through deployments and separations, they help us with child care when we need a break or a date night with our spouse, and they are there when things go south. They are also there to celebrate our successes and to share our common experiences. It’s those common experiences that help to bind us together as a community. This is something that few in the civilian world can understand or relate to.
One of the major challenges we face as spouses apart from those inherent to our service members duties (deployment, separations, stressors) are employment barriers. The very nature of our lifestyle makes it extremely difficult to obtain and to hold down a job. The same goes for trying to finish a degree. Brick-and-mortar options are almost out of the question as we would need to transfer schools every couple of years to make that work or choose to geo-bach and endure even longer separations. Online options are great and growing but some have questionable accreditation and don’t translate well when seeking licensure and employment. Licensure in and of itself is a very difficult issue to tackle. Every time you move, your license doesn’t seamlessly follow you from state to state. What’s worse is that getting licensed over and over again can prove costly and time consuming.
These are barriers I have faced as a military spouse and a psychologist. I have been perennially underemployed and unemployed. When I looked to my peers in the behavioral health field for support, they were amazing and tried to understand. I appreciated their efforts but it’s difficult to explain to someone that you could be discriminated against because you are likely to move every couple of years. Then, when I looked to my peers, my fellow military spouses, they understood the moves and the sacrifices. However, they didn’t fully grasp the impact on my professional life and my family’s financial future.
It was because of all of this that Military Spouse Behavioral Health Clinicians (MSBHC) was born. I often felt alone, and had questions about licensing portability, financial constraints and how to interview for a job. Do I mention that I’m a military spouse? Will that affect my chances? I needed the support of military spouses just like me. The problem was, I didn’t know any and I felt alone. That is how MSBHC came to be, it started with an idea to provide networking support for military spouses in the behavioral health field. It began with a Facebook group, and quickly grew to be so much more. I found that although we all come from different backgrounds: some are Active Duty, others Reserve, Guard and Coast-Guard and Veteran’s; we are spouses, girlfriends, partners and significant others. We are undergraduate students just finding our way, graduate students working on our theses, early career and seasoned professionals. We are as diverse as this great country of ours. But we have one very important thing in common: We have lived the military life and we want to give back through our passion for bettering the mental health of military and civilians alike. This is MSBHC, this is our shared experience, and I am so honored to be sharing this journey with all of you.