Lives of service members and their families are overwhelming at times. That's why free confidential counseling services are available to help you cope in a healthy way. The Department of Defense provides a variety of counseling and suicide prevention services to all active-duty, National Guard and reserve service members, survivors, Department of Defense civilian expeditionary workforce members and their families. Different types of military counseling services are available so you can choose the option that best meets your needs.
Military counseling services
1. Installation's chaplain — In addition to offering spiritual guidance, chaplains in military units and commands are trained counselors who are attuned to military life. Many military members find a level of comfort and camaraderie in talking with a chaplain who offers confidential assistance and referral services for various concerns.
2. Combat stress control teams — Combat stress control teams are available as field resource support for the mental and emotional health of service members during deployments. These teams of mental health professionals are embedded with units and offer unlimited access to help service members address concerns that arise in the field.
3. Non-medical counseling resources — Non-medical counseling programs provide confidential, short-term counseling with service providers that possess advanced degrees in a mental health field and are licensed or certified to practice independently. These services are designed to address a variety of issues, including marital stress, adjustment issues, improving relationships at home and work, stress management, parenting, and grief and loss issues. The two primary resources for non-medical counseling services are Military OneSource and the Military and Family Life Counseling Program. Non-medical counseling services are available face-to-face, by telephone, online and video.
4. The Family Advocacy Program — The Family Advocacy Program is a supportive resource for service members and their families. The program provides support and resources to help families develop and sustain healthy, strong and positive relationships. They can provide individual, couples or family counseling, as well as support groups and other resources. The Family Advocacy Program also assesses, refers and provides counseling for families experiencing domestic violence or child abuse and will also refer at-risk individuals for other immediate professional, medical mental health treatment.
5. TRICARE or your nearest military treatment facility — Therapy services may also be available through TRICARE. Your primary care manager can refer you to appropriate counseling through a military treatment facility or a network provider in our area. If you are using TRICARE, make sure you understand what services will be covered and what co-pays you may be responsible for.
6. United States Department of Veterans Affairs counseling at Vet Centers — The VA provides counseling services to assess and treat mental health issues. Veterans Centers have highly trained staff specializing in suicide prevention and offer free readjustment counseling to combat veterans and their families, including those still on active duty.
7. Outside military support channels — Some people may be more comfortable working with counselors outside of the military. If you choose a civilian provider for professional assistance, make sure you understand the costs before you begin a treatment program. Community mental health services often use a sliding scale for fees based on the client's ability to pay or may require copays associated with individual insurance. As a service member, you will also need to consider your responsibility to report counseling to your command.
Understanding your rights to privacy
Many service members will avoid seeking the help they need for fear of stigma and negative implications for their career. Don't be afraid that counseling will negatively impact your career or the career of your spouse. By and large, counseling falls under protected information and is kept confidential. There are certain limits to privacy, which you should review with your counselor. For service members or their families seeking counseling through military support channels, those services are confidential and family members may use counseling services without notice or consent of the service member. The only exceptions to confidentiality are for mandatory state, federal and military reporting requirements (for example, domestic violence, child abuse and duty-to-warn situations). Even then, only those who need to be notified will be informed. All counselors, military or civilian, are ethically and legally bound to safeguard client confidentiality within the confines of safety and security-threat disclosure.