Exploring the psychological health and wellbeing experiences of female veterans transitioning from military to civilian environments

  • Gemma Jones

Student thesis: Doctor of Counselling Psychology


Background: The inclusion of women in the armed Forces is becoming increasingly commonplace, with figures currently standing at 10.2% of the regular Forces in the United Kingdom (UK). This is set to rise with the introduction of the new Ground Close Combat (GCC) ruling which came in earlier this year (2017), allowing women to serve on the frontline with their male colleagues. However, alongside these changes, women already face stressors and exposure to combat in the Forces that potentially contribute to difficult transitions back into everyday life when leaving the military environment. The aim of this study was therefore to engage with and explore the experiences of female veterans psychological health and wellbeing as they transition from the Forces into civilian life, understanding the different processes they encounter as they transition. Methodology: Six female veterans who fit the inclusion criteria were recruited for the study. In this qualitative study, semi-structured, one-to-one, in-depth interviews were conducted and analysed in accordance with Charmaz's (2006) Constructivist Grounded Theory (CGT) guidelines. This iterative and inductive analytical process was utilised to construct an understanding of the participant's experiences and understandings of their transition. Findings: Concurrent with the CGT approach, nine theoretical categories developed from the analysis of the interviews, including role reversal, sexism and loss. These contributed to the development of a transition model, representing an interaction between the military environment, no mans land and the civilian environment. Findings indicate that experiences of transitioning faced by female veterans are complex, and involve gender-related issues. The findings also suggest that problems with mental health such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are common, and are heightened by additional stressors specific to women's experience in the military and civilian environments. Discussion and Conclusion: These findings suggest that female veterans health and psychological wellbeing experiences in the military are parallel to those they experience in civilian life. Consistent with previous literature, the female veterans interviewed appear to have experienced their transitions differently to male counterparts, with additional stressors present throughout their transitions. These stressors contribute to the uncertainty of identity, stigma and a loss of military ways when transitioning back into a civilian society. Consequently, more services that are tailored to female military veterans, are proposed, in order to support the increasing number of female veterans that will present in the future. This has implications for therapeutic practice in counselling psychology, whereby a deeper understanding of the difficulties and challenges experienced by female veterans during transition into civilian life can inform therapeutic interventions and signposting to specific services tailored their needs.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorTerry Hanley (Supervisor) & Erica Burman (Supervisor)


  • Female Veterans
  • Psychological Health and Wellbeing
  • Counselling Psychology
  • Transition Model

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