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NEWS | April 16, 2008

Need to talk? New program allows Airmen to talk in confidentiality about several issues

By Robert Goetz Staff writer

A new, free, confidential counseling service to help Airmen and their families cope with issues from deployment and reintegration to parent-child relationships is available at the Airman and Family Readiness Center. 

The Military and Family Life Consultant Program, which originated in the Army four years ago to provide support to families of the extended 1st Armored Division, started for the Air Force in the Pacific two years ago and is now being offered at 13 Air Force installations in the continental United States, including Randolph. 

MHN Inc., a California-based mental and behavioral health services company that is a subsidiary of Health Net, contracts with the Department of Defense to provide the program, which augments the services of the Integrated Delivery System on-base helping organizations. 

The program is designed to help military families deal with normal reactions to stressful situations caused by deployments, reunion and reintegration. 

"Through the MFLC Program, licensed clinical counselors assist servicemembers and their families with issues they may face through the cycle of deployment - from leaving their loved ones and possibly living and working in harm's way, to reintegrating with their community and family," according to the MHN Web site. 

The program, which also addresses other issues, is short-term and situation-focused. 

"This is a nonmedical counseling situation," said Elizabeth McKinley, Airman and Family Readiness Flight chief. "It's not long-term. The consultants can see people up to three times. If further counseling is required, a referrel will be made for additional counseling services over an extended period of time." 

The program's confidentiality sets it apart from other counseling services offered through the IDS. Most in-house services are required to keep records. 

"There are no records or documentation of a visit," Ms. McKinley said. "When a military person goes to Mental Health, it is documented, so it can deter people from going. The idea is that if they can come here with confidentiality, they can get the issue resolved, or receive a referral." 

Despite confidentiality, however, Military and Family Life Consultants are required to report certain events. 

"They have an obligation to report some incidents like spousal or child abuse, substance abuse, sexual assault or suicidal behavior," she said. "They disclose that up front." 

One MFLC is assigned to Randolph, but another unique feature of the program is that counselors are rotated every 45 days, established to support the concept of anonymity.
In addition to counseling, MFLCs will assist the Airman and Family Readiness Flight in other ways. 

"We will be using them at reintegration training on Tuesdays and Fridays," she said. "Servicemembers must report within seven days of their return from deployment. We want to see how they're coping. The MFLCs will attend those sessions to help out and will go to the personnel deployment function line before Airmen are deployed and assist with pre-deployment briefings. We can use them in almost any way that benefits the military and the family." 

Deployments and the issues they raise are common topics at sessions, but MFLCs are also available to help address marriage and relationship issues, parenting and family issues, communication challenges, stress and anxiety, depression, grief and loss and daily-life issues, according to the MHN Web site. All of the consultants are licensed master's degree-level social workers, psychologists and marriage and family therapists.
Ms. McKinley said the flexibility of MFLCs is a plus. 

"They are very flexible," she said. "They can meet evenings and weekends when necessary." 

Ms. McKinley believes the program will benefit Airmen at Randolph. 

"I think it's very positive," she said. "Getting the word out is our first objective. They are already here." 

To schedule an appointment with a Military and Family Life Consultant, call 426-6499.