JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
Although the military has specific procedures for accomplishing tasks and follows a regimented structure, service members aren't immune to real-world issues and challenges. The Department of Defense recognizes this reality and is using resources to assist service members and their families with day-to-day struggles.
One such resource is Military and Family Life Counselors. These licensed counselors provide short-term, non-medical counseling for individuals, couples, children and families.
Currently, MFLCs are located at the Airman and Family Readiness Center, youth center, child development center, in the local schools and at the Weapons Station. Soon there will be an additional option as well.
"The DoD instituted a pilot program sending a surge of MFLCs to bases that requested the additional service. The bases asked for the additional MFLCs to be placed in units with high ops tempo, deployments outside the wire or high-stress jobs. These surge MFLCs will be embedded within several units on Joint Base Charleston," said Michelle McMeekin, the Community Support Coordinator for Joint Base Charleston.
The base Integrated Delivery System, an umbrella of helping agencies, assisted in determining which units would best benefit from the additional MFLC resource. MFLCs will be placed in the select units as a way to build rapport and be an easily accessible resource to unit members, if needed, said McMeekin.
Because it has been shown that service members are sometimes adverse to visiting counselors or mental health facilities for fear of negatively affecting their careers, MFLCs provide unit members the opportunity to speak to a trained professional without documentation.
"The goal of the MFLC is to offer service members an additional, accessible resource that doesn't feel threatening to them. Like sitting down with a good or trusted friend. But this friend has skills. They are trained professionals who can offer the type of assistance and practical life skills that you don't always get from venting to your best friend. Once that door is opened and the person feels comfortable talking with someone, without fear of this help-seeking behavior becoming a threat to their career, they may not feel as nervous about being referred to a base helping agency such as the Chapel or Mental Health for additional assistance," said McMeekin.
The services the MFLCs provide are free up to 12 sessions per particular need.
"One benefit of the MFLC as a resource, is that they are very flexible. Typical MFLC hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., but they are flexible to meet the needs of the base population. They can meet anywhere on or off of a military installation to provide their services in a comfortable environment," said McMeekin.
However, there is one exception. For safety reasons MFLCs are not allowed to meet in a residence.
"The surge allows us to have a very concentrated effort for a short period of time," said McMeekin. "Ninety days for the first rotation, with a possible extension of another 90 days if we feel it's warranted. We believe having an extra resource embedded in the unit would be beneficial. The goal is to bring the MFLCs in and work with the unit leadership to establish the most effective and efficient schedule for all parties."
The services MFLCs provide include but are not limited to: anger management, communication, relationship issues, conflict resolution, deployment stress, coping skills and homesickness.
"One of the hoped for outcomes of this Surge MFLC opportunity, is getting high visibility on an amazing resource in a concentrated way, so that the military or family member realizes the value of seeking help early and to take away the stigma of asking for help from trained professionals," said McMeekin. "Once they see the value of the available resources, hopefully the base population will begin to utilize all of our base resources to positively impact quality of life on and off the job. That's our win-win scenario. That's a good day."