Military and Family Life Counseling Program: What’s New, What’s Stayed the Same

A couple laughing

Current as of May 4, 2020

The Military and Family Life Counseling Program can help you stay strong through life’s challenges, including those due to the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. We will offer telephonic and video sessions in areas where face-to-face support is restricted.

What is the Military and Family Life Counseling Program?

Military families face unique challenges, such as deployments and moving. The Military and Family Life Counseling Program offers free, short-term, non-medical counseling to service members, Department of Defense expeditionary civilians, their families and survivors.

Non-medical counselors are available through one-on-one, couple or group sessions to help with:

  • Managing stress and changes at home due to COVID-19
  • Adjusting to deployment
  • Preparing to move or adjusting after a move
  • Strengthening relationships
  • Managing problems at work
  • Grieving the death of a loved one or colleague

What’s new?

The Military and Family Life Counseling Program now offers telephonic and video non-medical counseling. This is available in areas where face-to-face support may be restricted due to COVID-19. Contact Military OneSource for contact information and a warm hand-off to your closest military and family life counselor for telephonic or video non-medical counseling.

What’s the same?

The Military and Family Life Counseling Program is here to support you with free non-medical counseling by licensed master’s- or doctorate-level counselors. Sessions are confidential with the exception of child abuse or neglect, domestic abuse, harm to self or others, and illegal activity.

Counselors who specialize in child and youth behavioral issues are available to support children and teens with non-medical counseling.

Military OneSource also offers non-medical counseling by phone, live chat, video, or face-to-face where permitted. Children and teenagers may meet with a Military OneSource non-medical counselor by phone or video, as well as face-to-face where permitted.

How to get help

Contact your installation’s Military and Family Support Center to set up non-medical counseling through the Military and Family Life Counseling Program.

You can reach a child and youth behavioral military and family life counselor through:

  • A child development center
  • Your installation’s youth and teen center
  • Your child’s public school on or off the installation
  • A youth summer camp sponsored by your military service
  • Your commander or unit training point of contact

To connect with your closest military and family life counselor, call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 for contact information and a warm hand-off. Click here for calling options if you are outside the continental United States.

For Department of Defense updates for the military community regarding the virus that causes COVID-19, visit Defense.gov, follow Military OneSource’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram platforms, and continue to visit the Coronavirus Information for Our Military Community page for updates. Check Move.mil for PCS-related updates.

The Military and Family Life Counseling Program

Counselor speaking to group

Need support for issues like preparing for a move or nurturing a relationship with a deployed spouse? The Military and Family Life Counseling Program assists service members, their families and survivors with flexible non-medical counseling when and where needed. Military and family life counselors are highly-qualified professionals trained to understand the unique challenges you encounter and deliver face-to-face counseling services, as well as briefings and presentations to the military community both on and off the installation.

What is the Military and Family Life Counseling Program?

The Military and Family Life Counseling Program offers free short-term, non-medical counseling to:

  • Active-duty service members
  • National Guard members
  • Reserve members (regardless of activation status)
  • Department of Defense expeditionary civilians
  • Immediate family members or surviving family members of any of the above

One-on-one, couple, or group – counselors help you manage issues like:

  • Deployment adjustments
  • Stress management
  • Moving preparations and getting settled
  • Relationship building
  • A problem at work
  • The grieving process following the death of a loved one or colleague

If you’re facing something that a counselor can’t address, you will receive a referral for medical counseling services in your community through a military treatment facility or TRICARE. In general, military and family life counselors do not address:

  • Abuse cases
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Other mental health issues that may require long-term attention or medication

If you are in immediate crisis, call the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255, and press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255.

Contact Military OneSource 24/7.

You can get personalized help 365 days a year by telephone and online.

Overseas? See OCONUS calling options.

Prefer to live chat? Start now.

Confidentiality

You don’t have to worry that seeking help will impact your service member’s career. Services offered through the Military and Family Life Counseling Program are confidential, not reported to the command, and do not impact a service member’s security clearance.

Exceptions to privacy include duty to warn, suspected family maltreatment (domestic violence, child abuse or neglect), harm to self or others, and illegal activity.

How to reach a military and family life counselor

When you are ready to focus on your emotional health, reach out for support. Contact your installation’s Military and Family Support Center.

You can also find support for the youngest member of your military family. Contact a child and youth behavioral military and family life counselor through:

  • A child development center
  • Installation-based youth and teen centers
  • On- and off-installation public schools
  •  A youth summer camp sponsored by your military Service
  • The commander or unit training point of contact

Nearly all of those surveyed about the Military and Family Life Counseling Program would use counseling services again and would refer the program to a friend. Make an appointment with a military life counselor to improve your skills to manage military and family life.

Understanding Confidential Non-medical Counseling Services

Two service members talking in an office

You never have to be without support. Military OneSource and Military and Family Life Counseling provide free, short-term, confidential non-medical counseling services for a wide range of issues from marital conflicts and stress management to coping with grief and deployment adjustments.

Confidential non-medical counseling is effective for finding answers to common emotional and interpersonal difficulties.

Contact Military OneSource 24/7.

You can get personalized help 365 days a year by telephone and online.

Overseas? See OCONUS calling options.

Prefer to live chat? Start now.

This overview explains the kinds of issues addressed by confidential non-medical counseling and how you can access it.

Eligibility for Non-medical Counseling

Confidential non-medical counseling services are free and available to the following groups through Military OneSource and your installation’s Military and Family Support Center:

  • Active-duty service members and their immediate family members
  • National Guard and reserve service members (regardless of activation status) and their immediate family members
  • Designated Department of Defense expeditionary civilians and their immediate family members
  • Survivors

Review the full eligibility guidelines.

Children and Youth Services

Children are eligible to receive confidential non-medical counseling services under the following circumstances:

  • Children ages 12 and younger may attend face-to-face sessions through Military OneSource with a parent or guardian, but not on their own.
  • Youth, ages 13 through 17, are eligible for individual, face-to-face counseling through Military OneSource, but a parent must attend the first session.
  • Children younger than age 18 are eligible for counseling with a child and youth behavioral military and family life counselor with parental consent.
  • All military and family life counseling with children occurs within line of sight of another adult.

Confidentiality

The non-medical counseling services through Military OneSource and the Military and Family Life Counseling Program are confidential. The Military and Family Life Counseling Program is also anonymous. This means:

  • A family member can receive counseling without the service member’s knowledge.
  • A service member can receive counseling without a family member’s knowledge.

Privacy protections ensure your personal information will not be:

  • Provided to the military or chain of command
  • Shared with family or friends
  • Released to other agencies

Exceptions to privacy include:

  • Duty to warn
  • Suspected family maltreatment (domestic violence, child or elder abuse or neglect)
  • Harm to self or others
  • Illegal activity

Issues addressed in non-medical counseling services

Confidential non-medical counseling addresses issues such as:

  • Adjustments (including deployments)
  • Marital problems
  • Parenting skills
  • Stress management
  • Decision-making
  • Communication
  • Grief and loss

Non-medical counseling services don’t address certain issues. If you need help with any of the following issues, contact the Military Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255 and Press 1).:

Non-medical counseling isn’t suitable for individuals:

  • Prescribed psychoactive medication
  • Receiving therapy with another practitioner
  • Involved in Family Advocacy Program cases
  • Undergoing fitness-for-duty evaluations
  • Undergoing court-ordered counseling

Accessing free counseling services

Face-to-face confidential non-medical counseling may occur in an office setting with a counselor located in the local community or with military and family life counselors on an installation. Military OneSource offers counseling sessions in three other formats:

Hear an example of a call center experience

Service members and their families can request counseling services at any time of the day or night, any day of the year, from anywhere in the world by calling Military OneSource at 800-342-9647. A consultant will assess your needs and give you a referral. You can also access Military OneSource counseling services online.

To speak with a military and family life counselor, contact one of the following:

Whether it’s getting to the next level or juggling responsibilities, we all need help sometimes. Tap into your military network to get the support you need. Confidential non-medical counseling is available to help you manage the stressors of military and family life anytime, anywhere.

How to Choose a Counselor or Therapist

Woman speaks to counselor.

The military knows that everyone needs help at times and offers a variety of support options to service members and their families. In addition to the confidential, free non-medical counseling available through Military OneSource, there are other types of counseling and therapy available through other avenues. Understanding your options is the best way to make sure you choose the right counselor or therapist for your individual needs.

What’s the difference between non-medical and medical counseling?

During a counseling session, you’ll work with a trained professional who will talk to you about issues you’re concerned with and help you find ways to cope with them. Your sessions can be individual (between just you and your counselor), with another person (such as your spouse) or in a group (perhaps your whole family).

Non-medical counseling, like the free, confidential counseling provided through Military OneSource and the Military and Family Life Counseling program, addresses other issues like:

  • Relationship concerns at home or work
  • Managing stress 
  • Adjusting to change or dealing with a transition
  • Parenting difficulties
  • Dealing with grief or loss
  • Returning from deployment

Medical counseling, which is not provided through either Military OneSource or the Military and Family Life Counseling program, specifically addresses medically diagnosable issues such as:

  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Mental illness
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Child abuse or neglect
  • Domestic violence
  • Thoughts of suicide

If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255, then press 1, or access online chat by texting 838255.

Contact Military OneSource 24/7.

You can get personalized help 365 days a year by telephone and online.

Overseas? See OCONUS calling options.

Prefer to live chat? Start now.

What are the different types of counselors?

  • Social workers are trained to understand how people are affected by their environment, including their family and culture.
  • Marriage and family therapists are trained to deal with interpersonal relationships, including family and couple conflicts.
  • Mental health counselors help people cope with a particular concern or difficult life event. Some may specialize in a particular area, such as educational or religious counseling.
  • Psychologists have a master’s or doctorate degree and use different kinds of testing to help identify and resolve problems.
  • Psychiatrists are licensed medical doctors specially trained to assess, diagnose and treat a patient’s mood disorder. They can hospitalize patients and prescribe medication.
  • Certified pastoral counselors are members of the clergy with specialized training in psychotherapy. All service members have access to pastoral counseling by trained, qualified military chaplains through their commands and installations.
  • Licensed professional counselors generally have a master’s degree in counseling or in a related field and provide general mental health counseling services.

Will my counseling sessions be confidential?

Yes, with a few exceptions. State laws or federal and military regulations may require your counselor to report specific instances, such as:

  • Domestic violence
  • Child abuse
  • Threats of self-harm or harm to others

How can I choose the best counselor for me?

Choosing a counselor is a personal decision specific to your individual needs and concerns. Military OneSource consultants, available at 800-342-9647, can help you figure out the best option for you. Regardless of which type of counselor or therapist best suits you, it is important that you find the help you need when you need it.