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American Forces Press Service

DOD Offers Non-medical Counseling to Troops, Families

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 2, 2013 – The Defense Department continues to ensure the well-being of service members and their families through no-cost, short-term, non-medical counseling in the interests of military and family readiness, a defense official said.

Jena M. Moore, program analyst for counseling in the Office of Military Community and Family Policy, explained the program during an interview with The Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service.

"The Military and Family Life Counseling program … offers short-term, non-medical counseling," Moore said. "And it's confidential for our service members and family members."

The program, administered by licensed professionals with master's or doctorate degrees in a mental health-related field, provide services for active duty, National Guard and reserve members and their families, as well as DOD civilians "serving as part of the expeditionary workforce and their families."

The program's goal, she said, is to prevent the development of or the exacerbation of mental health conditions that can detract from military readiness.

"Another goal of the program was to establish a different avenue of counseling for service members and family members, in addition to what's already available through their military community," Moore said.

Data indicates usage of non-medical counseling has increased from 10 percent of active-duty service members in 2003 to about 35 percent, she said.

According to Moore, the program provides non-medical counseling for issues that can be resolved or supported through short-term support.

"These are daily issues that come to our lives like dealing with work or dealing with family," she said. "And, specifically for the military community, it's those normal reactions that service members and family members can have to the stressful attributes that can come with being a military family member."

Moore said medical counseling is not provided through the program since such care typically would be used for health issues requiring longer-term care. Counselors ensure service members or family members are connected with the right resource before finishing the counseling sessions, she said.

"Examples of [medical counseling] would be issues related to child abuse, spouse abuse, or suicidal ideations," Moore said. "These are counseling sessions that you could find within a military medical treatment facility or through TRICARE."

Moore explained how the MFLC program delivers counseling to the military community in a variety of ways.

"One of the largest ways that we're utilized is on installations on rotations up to 180 days," she said. "And typically these MFLCs are found within our family support centers, but they also can be found throughout military installations as well as embedded in military units.

"We also have our child and youth behavioral MFLCs that support child and youth on installations," Moore continued. "Those can be found in our child development centers as well as public schools that have high populations of military children."

For commanders, Moore noted, there are surge support services available to units that are returning from combat. And there are on-demand medical services that primarily support National Guard and reserve members, she said, which are usually available at family events and during drill weekends and deployment-related events.

"If a commander is interested in receiving surge support for their unit that is returning from deployment, they would request through their family program manager at service headquarters," Moore said, "and then that request would come through to the MFLC program where we'd review it, and provide support as needed."

For troops with privacy concerns, the sessions with the MFLC counselors are confidential -- even their commander won't know -- and the counseling will not impact their security clearances, she said.

Additionally, Moore said, full-time program counselors can be accessed through joint family support assistance programs, available in all 50 states, territories and the District of Columbia.

And MFLC program options include speaking to a military chaplain, or going to a family support center, she said.

Moore said research data indicates the program is working.

"In a recent review of the MFLC program that was conducted by Virginia Tech, [of] those that were surveyed, 98 percent indicated that the MFLC counseling program was effective in dealing with their issues," she said.

Senior commanders like retired Navy Adm. Eric T. Olson, who led U.S. Special Operations Command, also have provided feedback, Moore said.

"In 2010, [Olson] spoke to the MFLC program and the support that the MFLC program provided his service members and family members," she said. "[Olson] mentioned how the MFLC program is flexible, and it's so accessible … that his families and service members feel comfortable in utilizing it."

Olson "really thinks that it's a value added for his service members and family members to have that resource," Moore said.

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