The RAND Corp. in October issued its comprehensive study of the Defense Department’s nonmedical counseling resources, and the programs had a solid rate of success, Military Community and Family Policy officials said.
“The RAND report confirms for us what we already know about the power of listening and support,” said Julie Blanks, the acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy.
“Nonmedical counseling provides service members and families with a resource to turn to during times of stress, challenges or loss that can come with military life,” she noted. “It enables our force to return to the mission at hand, knowing there is someone who can listen when needed.”
“There are a lot of challenges that don’t rise to the threshold of requiring medical treatment,” such as clinical depression, explained Lee Kelley, director of military community and family policy’s nonmedical counseling program office.
Counseling for a nonmedical issue typically includes stress management for such day-to-day issues as parent-child relationships, spousal relationships and deployments, Kelley said.
Confidential and private counseling with a professional is available to active-duty, National Guard and reserve service members, their immediate families and survivors through either the Military and Family Life Counseling Program or Military OneSource, she noted.
Such a study has not been undertaken in 16 years of military operations, officials said.
In key findings, the RAND study determined more than 65 percent of people reported experiencing a reduction in issue severity after beginning nonmedical counseling. Most improvements were maintained three months later. Also, after three months the percentage of those rating their issues as “very severe” went from about a third before counseling to about 4 percent.
Additionally, more than 70 percent of people reported a reduction in the frequency of feeling stressed or anxious after they began counseling, and more than 74 percent of people felt a reduction in how much their issue interfered with their daily lives after three months.
About 90 percent of the study’s participants agreed or strongly agreed their counselor gave them the services necessary to address their nonmedical issue and related concerns.
“Understanding the impact of nonmedical counseling for us is paramount to ensuring we’re delivering the most-effective services to our service members and their families,” Kelley said.
“This evaluation is something we’ve been eager for and we are so excited to finally be at the point to take a look at the results and have those results form the future of the program,” she added.
RAND assessed the counseling, its effectiveness, and showed that DoD’s nonmedical counseling was especially effective because it delivers counseling in a flexible manner across several platforms, Kelley said.
For example, Military OneSource personnel can counsel people by phone, in person, by chat and via video, she explained.
“The intent behind all of our nonmedical counseling is for it to be universally acceptable and destigmatizing. We find if we can provide counseling resources in the locations where service members and families are, it helps to normalize the experience of counseling,” Kelley emphasized.
“For service members and families who aren’t aware of these resources, even if they don’t need them now, we hope they will keep them in mind for the future, and more importantly, we would really like for each [person] to look out for those next to them,” Kelley emphasized.
“If they notice someone is in need who could potentially benefit from a confidential [session], we challenge every service member and family member to share [our] resources with their neighbor, the person they run into at the PX, a unit member, or anyone who might benefit,” she said.
“You never know what stresses people are under and these are confidential resources that can help them manage them,” Kelley said.
There are many ways to begin counseling: by calling Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 or visiting the Military OneSource website, or visiting an installation’s family center to find a counselor.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)