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Face-to-face counseling available to Airmen, families

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (June 17, 2005) -- Sometimes an Airman needs someone to talk to, and although his or her supervisor or friends are available, they are not always the right ones to listen.

The Air Force, as part of a larger effort within the Department of Defense, offers Airmen a professional, private, face-to-face counseling as part of the Air Force OneSource program.

"Air Force OneSource is part of the total system of support that is available at all Air Force bases," said Brenda Liston, Air Force family matters chief. "It is available to active duty, Reserve and National Guard members, whether they are activated or not."

The OneSource program has been available for more than a year now and provides Airmen and their families with information and referral services for education, medical, financial, deployment, return and reunion issues. In July, the program will be expanded to include face-to-face counseling services for Airmen and their families.

The program makes free counseling services available to help Airmen and their families deal with marital and relationship problems, deployment or redeployment stress, grief and other nonclinical issues.

"This even includes couples counseling for Airmen (who) are single and having relationship issues," Ms. Liston said. "It is easily accessible for our Air Force people dealing with family issues such as returning from deployment, reintegration, grief counseling, couple's concerns or any number of issues a couple, an Airman or a family member would like to speak with a counselor about."

Any active-duty Airman, reservist or guardsman or their immediate family members can access the service, Ms. Liston said.

"It is available to anyone carrying a military identification card -- family or Airmen, active or reserve, activated or not," she said. "Even if you aren't married, you can take your nearest and dearest to talk with a counselor about relationship issues."

Airmen who want to take advantage of the service need only call the Air Force OneSource telephone number to talk to an online consultant. The consultant will take demographic data from the Airman, make an assessment of the issue he or she has, and then help the Airman choose the best course of action. The service can also be accessed by visiting local family support centers.

If counseling is needed, a consultant will help the Airman set up an appointment with a licensed civilian counselor in the local community. The service comes at no cost to servicemembers and their families, and Airmen are entitled to up to six counseling sessions per issue.

Counseling services are available for nonclinical issues only, however. The service does not handle medical issues involving alcoholism, depression, drug abuse or abuse in the family. In those cases, Airmen will be put in contact with appropriate military agencies. The service also has an obligation to report instances of drug use or physical abuse to the authorities. In all other situations, Ms. Liston said, Airmen can expect the same level of privacy they would with base agencies.

"The face-to-face counseling program is filling a gap we have had for years," Ms. Liston said. "There is clinical counseling available now through Tricare or mental health, but they have never done nonclinical counseling before."

Helping Airmen and their families deal with problems before those problems escalate not only helps Airmen, it helps get the mission accomplished, Ms. Liston said.

"A lot of times issues that become really difficult and (affect the) mission started out with a small issue, like how to readjust when you come home from deployment," she said. "Problems can be resolved at the lower level before they escalate into real problems."

Air Force OneSource is available anytime by phone in the United States at (800) 707-5784, internationally at (800) 7075-7844 or collect at (484) 530-5913. The program is also available in Spanish at (800) 375-5971 and to the deaf or hard of hearing, via TTY/TDD at (800) 346-9188. Airmen may also visit the program Web site at www.airforceonesource.com. The site requires customers to log on by using “airforce” as the user ID and “ready” as the password.