Deployments, frequent moves and long training separations –- all of them come with their share of stress. Fortunately, the Defense Department offers a variety of free counseling support for married service members and their families. Seeking support, they say, is a sign of strength.
How can marital counseling improve your relationship?
Every military couple experiences and handles stress differently. Not only are deployments themselves stressful, so is the time before and after them. You and your partner might feel sad, irritable, angry or frustrated. You might find yourself picking fights, avoiding difficult discussions or withdrawing altogether.
Those feelings are totally normal for military couples throughout the deployment cycle. But that’s why counseling support can be invaluable – addressing concerns before they escalate can help alleviate that pressure and make your relationship better.
Understanding the two types of available counseling
No matter why you need it, there are two types of counseling available to service members and military spouses.
Non-medical counseling. This type of counseling is designed to help you with everyday concerns, like improving your relationships at home and at work, stress and anger management, adjustment after deployment, parenting and grief and loss issues. Non-medical counseling is usually a short term, problem-solving approach. It can include stress-related trauma therapy or addiction counseling, but no medications will be prescribed.
Medical counseling is designed to assist with long-term issues, such as drug and alcohol abuse, psychological concerns, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, child or spousal abuse, suicidal ideation or other psychological issues that adversely affect a marriage.
Nearly every military installation has a family service or support center, chaplain support, child-development center or other service where spouses can get help, from crisis intervention to counseling, depending on their need. Use the information below to locate the resource that’s right for your family.
How to find military non-medical counseling
Non-medical counseling resources, available through Military OneSource and the Military Family Life Consultant program, can help with marital problems before and after they evolve into more serious concerns.
Military OneSource offers service members and their spouses and children free, non-medical counseling. After a short phone screening, a Military OneSource employee will refer a service member or eligible family member to a local, licensed professional counselor for free. The counseling can be done face-to-face, over the phone or online. It’s meant to be short term, and covers up to 12 free sessions per issue, per person. For more information call 800-342-9647 or visit Military OneSource.
Military Family Life Consultants (MFLC) are licensed, experienced clinical providers who hold masters or Ph.D. degrees and offer on-base support to service members and their spouses. Like the counselors available through Military OneSource, they provide non-medical, short-term counseling for concerns like anger management or parenting issues. They also refer situations requiring additional psychological health treatment to appropriate behavioral health agencies. But the best thing about MFLCs are their availability. Frequently one MFLC is assigned to each unit, making them easily accessible through just a phone call or by walking into their office. You can contact an MFLC through the appropriate resource at your home installation.
Army Community Services
Marine Corps Community Services
Navy Fleet and Family Support Centers
Airman and Family Readiness Centers
The Defense Center of Excellence (DCoE) focuses on psychological health and traumatic brain injury. Families can contact the DCoE Outreach Center can provide resources to families needing advice through their call center at 866-966-1020 or the Real Warriors live chat.
Relationship and marriage classes and retreats are offered almost everywhere either through your unit, the on-base chaplain or a church or support center outside the gate. The classes might be offered weekly or given as a one-time seminar or weekend retreat. The best way to locate these resources is to contact an on-base chaplain. The chaplain can also tell you about the Marriage Care retreat program (Air Force), Strong Bonds (Army) or CREDO (Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard).
Use medical counseling for longer-term or more complex issues
To receive medical counseling, service members and spouses from each branch of the military -- including National Guard members, reservists and DoD civilian employees who have deployed overseas -- can be evaluated and treated at a military treatment facility (MTF). Military personnel and spouses in need of psychological health care can seek help from a range of providers, depending on their condition.
You can receive up to eight mental health care visits through Tricare without a referral. You can find more information about Tricare covered mental health care here.
The Department of Defense contributed to this report.