WASHINGTON, D.C. - With the country embroiled in two wars, frequent deployments, and the home-front issues deployments cause, the nation's servicemembers and their families are enduring heightened stress levels.
The Military and Family Life Consultant Program, created in 2004 as a pilot program, supplements other existing military support options to help servicemembers and their families deal with what comes with military life during times of war. The program belongs to the Military Community and Family Policy office.
"The big picture of the program is that the ... MFLC Program was developed to provide short-term, nonmedical support to the active and Guard and reserve components and their family members worldwide," said Mike Hoskins, special assistant to the office of the undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy. "What [the counselors] do is they augment existing support assets on the installation."
Several hundred thousand people a year take advantage of MFLC counselors' services, Hoskins said. Part of those numbers come from command-requested, pre- or redeployment briefings. Others use the service because it offers something traditional methods don't. The fact that they sought support from an MFLC counselor doesn't end up in their permanent file.
"People are sometimes worried about information ending up in their service record and then that having an adverse effect on them or their family or their status in the military or on the installation," he said. "With the exception of mandatory federal state and military reporting requirements, it's private and confidential."
The exceptions include knowledge of an intent to hurt oneself or others, domestic violence or child abuse, and drug use, Hoskins added.
The top two areas of concern for those seeking the support of an MFLC counselor are relationship issues with a spouse or children, or deployment-related issues. At this time of year, tax season financial assistance is also a big concern.
"[They address] the day-to-day issues we all deal with," Hoskins said. "The military-specific issues relate to the deployment cycle, whether it's mobilization, deployment, reintegration or frequent moves. It addresses those issues also."
The program's counselors actively working on or near installations hold at least a master's degree or greater in a mental health-related field, including social work, psychology, and marriage and family therapy. They also must be licensed by a state or territory to practice at an independent practitioner level.
Hoskins said he sees the program continuing to grow because the needs are so great right now for this type of support.
"It fills the gap between what isn't able to be served through military treatment facilities or through Tricare or through the normal family center set ups," he said.
As summer approaches, Hoskins is getting ready to temporarily swell the ranks of his counselors in response to requests for support from children's summer camps.
"We provide MFLC support for [National Military Family Association] Purple Camps ... and for Guard and Reserve summer camps," he said. "The opportunity to provide support to kids in a more preventive kind of way is, I think, ideal."
The MFLC Program is part of the larger counseling program to include Military OneSource, which offers counseling face-to-face, by telephone and online. The two programs, MFLC and Military OneSource, are complimentary of one another in that they refer back and forth depending on the needs of the individuals. Services also can be tailored to meet specific needs of each individual, Hoskins said.
Troops or family members can find more information about the program at their local family center.