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New Program Offers Peer-to-Peer Counseling

Officials with Military OneSource have peeled off from their 800-number counselors pool a group of experts with military experience to run a new peer-to-peer counseling program.

The idea behind the program is pretty simple: talking to a counselor is easier (and the advice seems more practical) when that person has personally experienced what you are struggling with.

Dealing with a counselor who has no military life experience can be a much different conversation than with one who does. The peer to peer program looks to capitalize on that feeling of empathy. If a OneSource user is just looking for someone to talk to about navigating the difficulties of military life, the peer-to-peer pool can be that expert listening ear.

Two spouses meet at RAF Alconbury, U.K. (Photo: U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Jared A. Denton). You may not be able to meet with a peer-to-peer counselor face to face like this spouse, but you can find one on the phone through Military OneSource.

"The consultants easily relate to the participant because they have firsthand military-life experience and can connect with service members and their spouses on a personal level," said Maj. Ben Sakrisson, a DoD spokesman. "A confidential peer-to-peer specialty consultation is a relaxed conversation that can be about the challenges of military life, such as deployments or frequent relocation."

The peer-to-peer program rolled out June 15.

The peer-to-peer counselors receive just as much training as the service's other counselors, including a six week intensive consultant training, officials said. In addition they must do a specialized in-person training on best practices in peer-to-peer support. Like all OneSource counselors, they are also required to have a Master's-level counseling credential, they said.

So far most of the OneSource callers who have asked for the peer-to-peer service are transitioning service members, Sakrisson said. But officials expect demand for the program to grow.

If you want to use OneSource's peer-to-peer service call the OneSource hotline -- 800-342-9647 --  between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. ET (when those counselors are available) and ask for it. Let us know if you like it!

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