Major Richard Strong, commander of 90th HR Co., STB, 3rd Sustainment Bde., 3rd ID, greats his two-year-old son Jameson and expecting wife Niki the night the 'Ghost Riders' came back from a 12-month tour in Afghanistan.

FORT STEWART, Ga. - The military affords service members and their Families a unique lifestyle.

Moving from state to state or from one country to another may seem fun to some, but for others it brings stress. The Miriam Webster dictionary defines stress in part as pressure or strain; a factor that induces bodily or mental tension. Stress in life is a real problem for many military Families, which may leave some seeking relief. That is where the Military and Family Life Consultant Program steps in to help.

Several years ago the MLFC program was started by the Department of Defense as service members started to experience more deployments. The program was started to help service members and their Families cope with the stress that may be associated with various stages of deployments, moves or just everyday life.

"The DoD saw a need and started seeing the impact of what reoccurring and long term deployments are doing to the service members and their Families," said Army Community Services Director, Vicki Hamlin.

With so many factors causing stress such as financial, communication, job and Family issues, MFLCs work closely with Families, individuals, couples and children to provide them with non-medical counseling services. Although MFLCs offer confidential services, they are not allowed to help someone who has been charged with a crime or someone who is under a doctor's care for issues such as post traumatic stress disorder.

Throughout the Stewart-Hunter community, schools and units, 34 MFLCs are available to offer their services. Child and Youth Behavioral specialists are assigned to the Child Youth and School Services on and off the installation. The CYB specialist's main focus is helping children to deal with some of the same stressors adults have, with a few exceptions.

"Children don't understand why their mom and dad are deployed so long," Hamlin said. Hamlin continued, "They don't understand why the other parent is home depressed and crying." The MFLC s are there to help them increase coping skills to aid in developing happier youth.

According to Hamlin, the counseling and problem identification services offered, supplement what the Army already offers, such as behavioral health, ACS and the chaplain corps.

"Sometimes people have a hesitancy to want to go get those services," Hamlin said. "Or they think that there is going to be a paper trail, or they just don't want people in their business."

Military and Family Life Consultants offer an alternative to mainstream counseling services.

Depending on the situation, MFLCs offer professional immediate and confidential, free counseling sessions to those who seek help, to include Department of the Army Civilians.

"The Families and Soldiers, they like having that confidentiality," Hamlin said. "They like that fact that there are no records kept. You may have a small level problem that we can get addressed before it becomes a major problem."

A recent survey conducted by Virginia Tech University studied the program's success rate over the course of a year, from December 2010 to January 2011, and found that of the 2791 participants surveyed, 98 percent of them rated the quality of the MFLC counseling services received as "good" or "excellent."

The same percentage of participants said that the services helped them to deal with their problems in a more effective manner.

"The value added is that we are able to get people some help," Hamlin said. "We are breaking down the stigmas of what help is so that they were not afraid to get the help."

Hamlin stated that when service members or their Family Members wait until it's too late, or if the severity of the problem increases, they then end up needing more significant help.

"When they can talk out some of their problems, [and are given] some strategies, then that is so much more successful," she said.

Counseling services are not the only resource MFLCs offer, the program also offers classes in a collaborative effort with ACS, the chaplain corps, medical services and various other support agencies. Anger management, conflict resolution, communication and problem solving are a few classes MFLCs offer.

Each MFLC has their personal phone number. According to Hamlin, service members should be able to get in touch with the MFLC in their unit or they can call 912-432-8980 for a referral.

"Until they have tried it, they don't know," Hamlin said in reference to Family and service members who have yet to contact an MFLC. "They are all about trying to help people."

Page last updated Thu April 19th, 2012 at 09:11