Fly-In, Fly-Out (FIFO) work has become a common form of employment for many Australians, with workers often away from home for long periods of time in remote locations.
Work schedules are not always easy, with most FIFO workers rostered for 12-hour shifts, for one to four weeks at a time. In the past, many FIFO workers were young to middle-aged men, however, this is changing as more and more women engage in the opportunities FIFO work offers.
There are both positives and negatives to FIFO work, with advantages including:
- financial gains;
- career advancement;
- job satisfaction;
- long periods of time off;
- and enhanced independence.
However the FIFO lifestyle can also bring or exacerbate problems such as:
- risky health behaviours (eg smoking, alcohol use, obesity);
- loneliness and sadness;
- feelings of disconnection from a normal life routine;
- family conflict;
- low relationship quality;
- and marital disruption.
What About the Partner at Home?
When it comes to the strain this style of work has on the partners of FIFO workers, research is in its infancy, however it is known that partners may have trouble adjusting between roles and responsibilities at home (dual parenting to single parenting); adjusting to changes in shift work; and struggling with managing potential psychological distance with their FIFO working partner.
In addition, partners of FIFO workers often experience feelings of loneliness, anxiety, stress, and depression.
FIFO work can result in couples growing apart due to a lack of quality time together, lack of intimacy, and a lack of practical and emotional support from one another.
Employers understand that FIFO work has a range of impacts on the worker’s lifestyle, and often offer support. However, support services are not always easily accessible, and some workers may be hesitant to seek help.
Couples therapy can be beneficial in navigating the struggles that FIFO places on a relationship, however, can be hard to commit to due to geographical separation, time differences, and alternating work shifts. One way to overcome these hurdles is through tele-mental health therapy.
What is Tele-Mental Health Therapy?
Tele-mental health therapy occurs when a therapist provides services through video conferencing, mobile phone or online chat, email and/or other web-based programs.
One of the most common ways of conducting video conferencing is Skype, due to its easy accessibility and the fact it can be downloaded for free, allowing users to make audio or video calls easily.
A common concern around the use of tele-mental health therapy is the lack of therapeutic alliance between the therapist and the individual/s. Other issues that cause hesitation about tele-mental health therapy include technological difficulties, audio and visual distortion, and missing non-verbal cues.
However, these hesitations are unfounded, as research has shown no significant difference in the quality of therapy between face-to-face methods of therapy, and tele-mental health forms of therapy. In addition, research shows support for the use of tele-mental health therapy for couples in long distance relationships. This means that couples with one partner away for FIFO work can benefit, with the flexibility tele-mental health therapy can provide.
How Can a Sex Therapist Work with FIFO Couples?
A sex therapist can use tele-mental health therapy for sessions while one partner is away, and assist FIFO couples in overcoming the hurdles the FIFO lifestyle creates. This means that a sex therapist can work with a couple to:
Improve Communication: Many FIFO couples report struggles in maintaining contact with one another and at times the strain of FIFO work can result in conflict. The conflict can arise due to mismanaged time, missed alone time, two different sets of routines, and a lack of effective communication with one another.
Through tele-mental health therapy, a sex therapist can act as a mediator and prompt conflict resolution. Sex therapists can also aid in drawing awareness to the causes of the conflict and highlight how unregulated emotions may cause further conflict. Together with a sex therapist, couples can develop strategies to regulate their emotions, effectively communicate with one another, and learn strategies of conflict management.
Importantly, a sex therapist can assist the couple to increase the amount of contact between the couple, collaboratively discuss time management strategies, and brainstorm alternative ways they can maintain contact. Regular contact and efficient communication strategies can assist a couple to organise new routines, establish realistic and achievable goals, and work towards future plans.
Negotiate Routine and Plans: It is often reported that the return of a FIFO worker can disrupt the stay at home partner’s routines, leading to resentment, disconnection, and conflict. Together with a sex therapist a couple can navigate through conflict and work on adapting schedules and routines.
The benefits of engaging with a sex therapist through tele-mental health therapy means that a couple can make effective plans and adapted routines while the FIFO worker is away, and focus on strategies for when the FIFO worker returns home or departs. This will have the overall result of limiting conflict and provide support for both in transitional times.
Homework such as alone time and date nights are important aspects of sex therapy for couples, however may be difficult for FIFO couples due to work commitments and geographic separation. To overcome this, a sex therapist and a couple engaging in tele-mental health therapy can work together in establishing achievable homework strategies for when the couple is physically together or apart.
Build Intimacy: FIFO work, family commitments, disruptions in routines, and long periods of time apart can place an immense strain on a couple’s sex life and impact intimacy.
Working with a sex therapist through tele-mental health therapy means that prior to the return home of the FIFO worker, couples can learn strategies to improve upon the negative impacts the FIFO lifestyle has on a couple’s sex life. This can be beneficial in setting up time together that is satisfying, meaningful and builds towards better intimacy.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call Vision Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3088 5422.
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