Combating stress: Bamberg offers counseling services for Soldiers, families
October 8, 2010
- Deployments can be a confusing and tumultuous time for some children
- The Army has increased its efforts to reach out and offer multiple avenues for counseling
- The MFLCs, who rotate in and out of the installation every 30 to 45 days, provide short-term situational solutions
- Another avenue of counseling is though Behavioral Health Services
BAMBERG, Germany -- Deployments can be a confusing and tumultuous time for some children.
When Braxton Rogers' dad returned to Afghanistan after his two-week Rest and Recuperation, the preschooler had a hard time adjusting to his absence. "Braxton was acting out and even faking an injury," said Angel Rogers, the three-year-old's mom.
Braxton, who attends the U.S. Army Garrison Bamberg Child, Youth and School Services' part-time morning pre-school program, received some help from the Military and Family Life Consultants, licensed health-care professionals, who observe and play with the children on a daily basis.
"The MFLCs are available to answer questions and offer suggestions on dealing with behavior and deployments," Rogers said. "After talking to them, they gave me suggestions on how to talk to Braxton about his feelings and encourage him."
Roger's experience with the MFLC is just one of several counseling options available to Soldiers, family members and civilians on Warner Barracks. With suicide rates escalating, divorce rates rising and constant deployments for the past few years, many Soldiers and family mem-bers are struggling with professional and personal stress, according to the Army Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, Suicide Prevention 2010" report released in July.
"The challenges of serving in todayAca,!A,s Army have tried our leaders, tested our Soldiers and exhausted our Families," wrote Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the Army's vice chief of staff, in the report. "While most have remained resilient through these challenges, others have been pushed to their breaking point."
To answer that call, the Army has increased its efforts to reach out and offer multiple avenues for counseling. "The good news is that Soldiers are seeking behavioral health care in record numbers with over 225,000 behavioral health contacts, indicating that our efforts to emphasize the importance of behavioral health are working," Chiarelli said.
Military and Family Life Consultants
The MFLC program that helped the Rogers family is not just for children. Started in 2004, the program was created in direct response to the needs of Families after the 1st Armored Division's return from a deployment, said Rickord Gibbons, Army Community Service director, who helped set the program up.
The program was so successful that the Army expanded it to all military installations. "These are licensed and credentialed social workers, marriage and family therapists, counselors or even psychologists," said Gibbons, who noted that the MFLC program is just one way ACS informs and educates community members on numerous topics. "They see everyone from children to adults to family members, Soldiers and even civilian contractors."
The MFLCs, who rotate in and out of the installation every 30 to 45 days, provide short-term situational solutions. "They provide a kind of triage for problems," Gibbons said. "They try and stop the problem at its lowest level."
The MFLCs offer help in an informal setting, often meeting clients at places such as restaurants, the Community Activity Center or even off post. In addition, the MFLCs do not keep records of the clients they see.
"The information stays with them," Gibbons said. "There are no names taken. That is really important because it takes any stigma away that there may be a client's name on a file somewhere. This can't affect a career." The only exception to that policy is if the client is threatening bodily harm either to him or herself or to others.
"This is about as anonymous as it gets," she said. "That is a real advantage to this neat program."
In addition, Bamberg also hosts one of the only financial MFLCs in Europe. The financial consultants provide in-depth financial counseling and management to clients.
Behavioral Health Services
Another avenue of counseling is though Behavioral Health Services, located in building 7253. The clinic offers comprehensive services to people of all ages and stages by fully certified and licensed staff, said Maj. Vahag Vartanian, chief of Behavioral Health Services.
Clients can obtain services several ways, including referral from their primary care manager or walking in, Vartanian said. Common problems that the clinic treats include anxiety, depression, sleeping and legal problems and interpersonal conflict with a Soldier's chain of command, Vartanian said.
About two-thirds of their clients are Soldiers while one-third are family members, he said. "While MFLCs come and go, we are more stable and offer long-term care," he said. "We have some patients who have been in therapy for years. Others can be helped in a session or two. We are here for as long as they need us to be here."
Another difference between the two is that while MFLCs don't keep records, Behavioral Health does. However, everything is confidential between the therapist and the client, Vartanian said. "The only times we break that confidentiality is if there are issues of suicide, homicide or security breaches," he said.
In addition, those records can benefit the client. "If you retire, the (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) can access our records and can pick up the care from there," he said.
It is very important to take preventative measures before issues become big problems. "We see that a lot of people come when it is too late - after they get into trouble for fighting, abusing illegal substances to deal with anxiety, depression or marital problems," he said. "Seek help before you self-destruct. A lot of problems don't go away by themselves. They are going to be there for the rest of your life if you don't take care of it."
While the stigma of getting help hasn't completely gone away, Vartanian said, the Army is trying to help Soldiers. "We are doing outreach - going into units and setting up in aid stations to reach more Soldiers," he said. "That really seems to be picking up."
The Behavioral Health clinic is also sending staff into the schools to see students. "We see students who have anxiety and depression about parents deploying and that manifests itself in many different ways including academically, behaviorally and sexually," Vartanian said.
Community members also can visit the Family Life Chaplain, located in Building 7040, who is available for counseling. Chaplain (Maj.) David Jacob, who has a master's degree in family and marriage counseling, works with community members who need either individual or couple's counseling. He also hosts classes for units on topics such as parenting and resiliency.
Community members can either call for an appointment or even walk in. One way that sets the chaplain apart from other services is that they have a 100 percent confidentiality policy.
"A few years ago, the Army chief of chaplains wanted at least one resource available to Soldiers where they could go with the confidence that the things they would say wouldn't be released to any person," Jacob said. "Sometimes that can be a very important point for Soldiers seeking help."
That, however, doesn't mean the chaplain will ignore suicidal statements, he said. "Some people have an issue with the policy," he said. "It sounds like if you say you are going to kill yourself I am going to just let you do it. Obviously that isnAca,!A,t the case."
There is also a misconception, he said, that someone must be a church-going person or that the problem has to be spiritual in order to talk to the chaplain. "That isn't true," Jacob said. "Most of the people, I would say about 80 percent, I talk to don't go to church or have a really strong faith or any faith at all. I don't necessarily talk about spirituality during a counseling session if that isn't their thing. I am not going to beat them over the head with the Bible. That isn't what the chaplain is about."
What he does is act as a facilitator and provide an environment where the couple can talk about their issues, he said. "I am not on the husband or wifeAca,!A,s side," he said. "I am here for the marriage so that it can be in the best shape it can possibly be in." Jacob encouraged couples to seek help before the problem gets too big. "Statistics show most couples wait at least seven years before they get help," he said. "By then, it's too late for a lot of them." He said the community has lots of resources to help all kinds of issues.
"Take advantage of the different programs," he said. "Don't wait until it's too late."