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More counselors for Marines and dependents

169 hires to focus on life's stresses

Feb. 24, 2013 - 10:53AM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 24, 2013 - 10:53AM  |  
Marines and family members who struggle with problems — from daily stress to suicide and sexual assault — have an array of programs available to them. To boost this support, the Marine Corps is now adding 169 Military and Family Life Consultants who provide counseling for minor psychological problems.
Marines and family members who struggle with problems — from daily stress to suicide and sexual assault — have an array of programs available to them. To boost this support, the Marine Corps is now adding 169 Military and Family Life Consultants who provide counseling for minor psychological problems. (Staff Sgt. Jennifer Brofer / Marine Corps)
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More help on the way

The Marine Corps has almost quintupled the number of Military and Family Life Consultants to help Marines and their dependents grapple with common types of stress and deployment and reintegration issues. For Marines who are trying to cope with more serious psychological issues, the Marine Corps has created the Behavioral Health Information Network online at http://bhin.usmc-mccs.org/. There, Marines and their families are connected to an array of programs that can provide assistance — and hope. They include:
• Combat and Operational Stress Control: Designed to prevent, identify and treat all "mental injuries caused by combat or other operations."
• Suicide Prevention and Response: Encourages Marines to seek help early or identify others in need of aid.
• Substance Abuse: Provides treatment "for active duty military members and other eligible beneficiaries with substance abuse and dependency disorders that interfere with mission readiness and interpersonal functioning."
• The Family Advocacy Program: Addresses child and domestic abuse by providing victims with counselors and other resources.
• The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Branch: Provides victim assistance services and offers preventative training aimed at helping Marines identify sexual assault and intervene.
Source: Marine Corps Community Services

The Marine Corps will add 169 Military and Family Life Consultants by the end of March to help troops and their dependents cope with the day-to-day rigors of military and family life.

The additional personnel, funded by the Defense Department, will significantly expand the service's ability to provide counseling for Marines and family members who are dealing with less serious psychological and behavioral issues. The Corps already had 37 consultants in place, primarily assigned to installation behavioral health programs.

"MFLCs provide brief, non-medical, short-term, solution-focused counseling to Marines, attached sailors and families in problem solving resulting from deployment, reunions, reintegration and other transition points," according to Marine administrative message 075/13, signed Feb. 13.

Of the new MFLCs, 56 will work in support of schools and child and teen programs. The majority — 113 — will be placed with operational units to help meet increased needs for counseling services after more than a decade at war.

The initiative, approved in October 2011, was intended to support surge requirements in Afghanistan, according to the MARADMIN.

The stepped-up operations in Afghanistan, which began in 2010, placed additional stresses on the force. Increased deployments stress families at home and the Marines who are gone for seven months or longer and then must readjust to life in garrison.

The consultants are not prepared to respond to more serious psychological issues and situations, however.

"MFLC counseling services may include, but are not limited to, stress and anger management; military life skills development; grief and loss; parent-child relationships; effective communication; and relationships," according to the MARADMIN.

They are highly qualified personnel — licensed clinicians with master's degrees and at least five years of experience — but they are directed to hand off the most serious cases to proper "reporting services" by providing a direct introduction.

For example, in cases of child abuse or neglect, domestic abuse and sexual assault, the consultant will refer a Marine or family member to internal command resources, external Marine Corps resources and external agencies when appropriate. That could include everything from a sexual assault response coordinator to law enforcement, if needed.

In addition to assisting individual Marines and their dependents, consultants who work in support of operational units will help commanders identify problematic trends among their ranks by providing limited information. That includes the types of behavioral health or family and relationship issues they are seeing, and the number of individuals they have seen during a given period of time. That is to help the COs spot "behavioral health needs within the command," so they can marshal resources to target any unique or endemic problems in their units.

The consultants also will be responsible for carrying out educational briefings specifically intended to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help when struggling with deployment, redeployment and reintegration issues.

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