Mental health technician counsels a service member.

7 Counseling Options for Service Members and Their Families

Free and confidential counseling services are available to help service members and their families cope in healthy ways. The Department of Defense provides a variety of counseling and suicide prevention services to all active duty, National Guard and reserve service members, survivors, designated Department of Defense expeditionary civilians and their families. Many 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 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 — These teams are available as field resource support for the mental and emotional health of service members during deployments. These mental health professionals are embedded with units and offer unlimited access so that service members can address concerns that arise in the field.
  3. Non-medical counseling resources — These programs provide confidential, short-term counseling with service providers with advanced degrees in a mental health field, licensed or certified to practice independently. Their 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 by video.
  4. The Family Advocacy Program — This 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 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 copays 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 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, 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. By and large, counseling falls under protected information and is kept completely confidential. There are certain limits to privacy, which you should review with your counselor, 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.

Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 to understand your confidential help options.