What Counseling Is Available for Service Members, Veterans, and Families?

The Defense Health Board, The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center and The Department of Veterans Affairs
Counseling/Behavioral Health

Everyone needs a helping hand at one time or another. Coping with TBI can be challenging. Fortunately, there are resources to help you and your service member/veteran cope.

The military offers non-medical counseling to the active force, National Guard and Reserve Components, and their families. Counseling is available for both children and adults. Couples or family counseling may also be available.

Active duty, National Guard and Reserve service members, and their families may receive counseling from:

  • Military OneSource
  • TRICARE
  • Family Service Centers
  • Chaplains
  • Military and Family Life Consultants (MFLCs)

Military OneSource

Military OneSource offers three different ways to receive counseling services:

  • face-to-face with a counselor in your local area
  • by telephone with a Military OneSource consultant
  • online consultations in a secure, real-time “chat” format

All Military OneSource counseling services are free to service members and their eligible family members.

Military OneSource professionals will help you develop personal solutions, goals, and plans. They will encourage you to build on your strengths, teach you to maximize your support systems, and help you find community resources to meet your needs.

The Military OneSource counseling services are not designed to deal with long-term issues, such as child or spouse abuse, and mental illness.

Those in need of long-term treatment are referred to a military treatment facility (MTF), TRICARE, or another health care provider in the community.

TRICARE

TRICARE coverage includes mental health and behavioral counseling benefits, including:

  • psychotherapy
  • inpatient and outpatient care
  • addictions counseling

Family Service Centers

Counseling may also be available from a Family Service Center. Every military installation has a Family Service Center. Services vary across installations.

If you do not live near an installation, many of the services can be provided via telephone and e-mail.

For Active Duty Service Members

Active military bases have family support centers:

  • Navy Fleet and Family Support Center
  • Marine Corps Community Service Center
  • Air Force Family Service Center
  • Army Community Service Center

Although the names vary, most of the services are the same.

Centers are staffed by highly trained human services professionals and volunteers. All programs are free of charge.

For National Guard Members

The State Area Command (STARC) within the State National Guard Military Headquarters usually creates a Family Assistance Center (FAC) when a reserve unit is mobilized. The FAC will provide current information about family support available within the state. This includes military, federal, state, and local civilian support.

The FAC will also provide government forms and assistance in filling them out. Check with your STARC to locate the FAC nearest you.

Chaplains

Chaplains help service members and their families deal with personal concerns such as:

  • faith issues
  • stress
  • anxiety
  • redeployment or reunion issues
  • moral and ethical values
  • social concerns

Chaplains help to resolve problems by making appropriate referrals to command channels or social service agencies. They also assist military personnel in requesting emergency leave, compassionate reassignments, and hardship discharges.

“Chaplain Thames was sent with me to travel to Germany to meet my husband, and then to Bethesda, and then he returned to Okinawa. He traveled with me so that I wouldn’t be traveling alone.”
- Anna E.


What Resources are Available to Prevent Suicide?

In the case of an emergency, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline right away at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Military Crisis Line

The Military Crisis Line, text-messaging service, and online chat provide free VA support for all Service members, including members of the National Guard and Reserve, and all Veterans, even if they are not registered with VA or enrolled in VA health care.

The Military Crisis Line is staffed by caring, qualified responders from VA. Many are Veterans themselves. They understand what Service members have been through and the challenges that members of the military and their loved ones face.

  • Call: 1-800-273-8255 and press 1
  • Text: 838255
  • Chat
  • Support for deaf and hear of hearing: 1-800-799-4889

Suicide prevention and mental health information by branch

Learn more about the resources and programs provided by our military using the links below.

  • Air Force

    Provides guidance and advocacy for Air Force Service members at risk for suicide and aims to reduce the rate of active duty Air Force suicides.

  • Army

    Information on the Army’s effort to reduce suicide and minimize suicidal behavior among soldiers and their families, and to improve individual readiness among Service members.

  • Coast Guard

    Manages the suicide prevention program and the various services and resources offered to Service members of the Coast Guard.

  • Marines

    Provides information, support, and education for Marine Corps members and their loved ones who may be at risk for suicide.

  • Navy

    Committed to preventing suicide and increasing wellness among Navy Service members and their families through outreach, education, and mental health advocacy.

  • National Guard

    Aims to prevent suicide among members with a focus on resiliency and reintegration, explored in a six-part video series.

What Counseling is Available for Veterans?

The Department of Veterans Affairs Vet Center program is staffed by small multi-disciplinary teams of dedicated providers, many of whom are combat veterans themselves.

Vet Centers provide individual, group, and family counseling to all veterans who served in any combat zone. This service may be provided free of charge to your veteran and/or family members.

Vet Centers offer readjustment counseling — a wide range of services provided to combat veterans in the effort to help make the transition from military to civilian life go more smoothly. Services include:

  • individual and group counseling
  • marital and family counseling
  • bereavement counseling
  • medical referrals
  • assistance in applying for VA benefits (see Chapter 2 for more information)
  • employment counseling
  • guidance and referral
  • alcohol and drug abuse assessments
  • information about and referral to community resources
  • counseling and referral for sexual trauma that happened while serving in the military
  • outreach and community education

A service member or veteran who served in any combat zone (Vietnam, Southwest Asia, OEF, OIF, etc.) and received a military campaign ribbon, or their family members, is eligible for Vet Center services.

Call toll free during normal business hours at 1-800-905-4675 (Eastern) and 1-866-496-8838 (Pacific).

You can also locate a Vet Center near you by going to the Vet Center Website.

Posted on BrainLine December 2, 2011.

The Traumatic Brain Injury: A Guide for Caregivers of Service Members and Veterans provides comprehensive information and resources caregivers need to care and advocate for their injured loved one and to care for themselves in the process. The Guide was developed by the Defense Health Board, the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

This is a chapter from the Family Caregiver Curriculum, Module 4: Navigating Services and Benefits. Click here for a pdf of the full guide.

Comments (1)

This is not so much of a comment as it is a question. I am a vet from the Reserves, my husband served in Iraq, he did not come home the same. I have tried to help him for 4 years now. I want to be able to take the steps necessary to help all those suffering from PTSD! If someone could please lead me in the right direction to school in order to help ALL those suffering from this I would be eternally grateful to you. Please contact me back at suzannemahler@yahoo.com or (209) 484-5969 Thank you CPL Suzanne Mahler