Military Counseling Benefits

I’ve read quite a few questions from military dependents who are wondering about their mental health counseling benefits.  From what I have seen, the military has one of the best programs covering mental health care.  There are four ways you can pursue it, either through Tricare, through Military One Source, through your military treatment facility (in some locations) or through your family support center (at some locations.)  There are pros and cons to each.

The first option is Tricare.  Tricare allows self-referral for mental health care, which means that you do not need to see your PCM/PCP in order to get a referral.  You are authorized 8 visits without a referral, after which the provider can submit to have more visits approved.  You do need to use an approved provider, who can be found using the search function at the Tricare website.  These are civilian providers who are off-base.  The main advantage of going through Tricare is that you are basically able to have an unlimited number of visits, as long as your provider continues to fill out the right paperwork along the way.  One possible downside is that the counselors do not necessarily have training in or understanding of the military.

The second option is to access counseling through Military One Source.  There are actually three ways to receive counseling services through Military One Source:  traditional, face-to-face counseling with a provider in your community, telephone counseling, and on-line counseling.  The last two options are great for people who are uncomfortable seeing a counselor in their community, or who find that their location or family situation makes in-person counseling difficult.  Military One Source provides up to 12 free counseling session per issue.  To utilize counseling through Military One Source, call 1-800-342-9647 (for in-person and telephone counseling) or go through the link at the counseling page to set an appointment for online counseling.  Military One Source does not provide any information regarding counseling to the military, and so it is outside of the military system.  However, you can only have 12 session with an specific counselor.  If you have a big issue, this limitation might be a problem for you.

The third and fourth options are only available in some military communities.  Certain military treatment facilities (MTF) offer behavioral health services to family members.  You may be referred by your PCM/PCP, or, in most cases, you can self-refer for counseling services.  Check your MTF to see if they offer family member behavioral health services.  Behavioral health providers at MTFs tend to understand the military lifestyle, which is helpful when working with a counselor.  However, appointment availability can be tough and providers tend to transfer or be deployed just as you’ve settled in with that provider.

The fourth option is run through your service’s family support center.  The Department of Defense has contracted an outside company to provide counseling services through the family support centers.  This program, called Military & Family Life Consultants (MFLC), offers short-term, solutions based counseling to individuals, couples, families and groups.  There is no charge for using MFLC services.  MFLC consultants understand the military, but the program is not designed to deal with long-term issues.  The counselors work on a rotational basis and therefore do not build deep relationships with their clients.

Military life is stressful, and having professional assistance can make the problems of military life much more manageable.  Please don’t hesitate to take advantage of the many ways to access military-provided mental health services.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • Kristin

    I am dating and in a serious relationship with a man that is retired Army Special Forces. I have been trying to get him to go to couples counseling but he keeps telling me has called and mental health is not convered on his insurance – which is not true because I found this site. I find him telling lies and I am catching him in them and then he tells another one.

  • Kristin

    I am at the end of my rope with all this but do care about him and know the wonderful military men and women often have such a hard time transitiong back but into reality but I am having to support us. We have our own business but he is missing some skills needed for the business world. I am reaxching out for help because I know he has not contacted anyone about this and I need to figure out a way to help him and us or we are not going to make it.

  • Kristin

    If any mental health profession reads this if you can provide any information I would appreciate any help you can provide me or contact or someone I can talk to through my e-mail (which I know I can’t put on here publicly). He refuses to get the help he needs and I am at the end of my rope.

  • Miranda Elliot

    Kristin – I know this was over a year ago that you posted, so perhaps not relevant to you now. But your boyfriend was telling the truth about couple’s counseling. It is not covered through Tricare since there is no medical diagnosis present. He is, however, eligible for individual counseling and might want to pursue that option.