The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) offers short-term, confidential, solution-focused counseling services for personal and family problems that do not require treatment in the military health care system. These services, referred to as non-medical counseling in the military, address a wide range of issues, including stress management, relationship stress, grief, separation, and adjustment to deployment.
RAND evaluated whether nonmedical counseling provided through the Military Family Life Counselling (MFLC) and Military OneSource programs was beneficial to participants, and whether this benefit differed by type of problem or client characteristics. Although the study results are not causal, they suggest that the programs are broadly effective.
The small but significant proportion of participants who reported no improvement as a result of counseling suggests that it would be useful for the programs to provide additional support, guidance, and training for counselors, especially in relation to children's problems.
- Program participants completed 2 online surveys between October 2014 and November 2016. A second survey was completed by 2,585 CMLF participants and 2,892 Military OneSource participants two to three weeks after the first session, and a follow-up survey was completed by 614 CMLF participants and 878 Military OneSource participants three months later.
- The survey covered military personnel and their family members over the age of 18 who participated in at least one 30-minute personal counseling session.
- The survey data were adjusted to be representative of the general population of program users.
- Given the design of the survey, causal conclusions about the effectiveness of the program cannot be drawn.
- More than 65% of those who used nonmedical counseling reported a reduction in the severity of their problems after initiating counseling. Most improvements persisted three months later. The proportion of people who considered their problem to be very severe decreased from about one-third before counseling to about 4% after three months.
- More than 70% of people reported a reduction in their feelings of stress or anxiety after starting counseling.
- More than 74% of people who received non-medical counseling felt that their problem interfered less with their daily lives after three months.
- Despite the reported improvement, 20-30% of participants reported no change and 1-5% reported an increase in the severity of the problem, distress, or factors interfering with daily life. Participants who went to a counselor for problems with their child reported, on average, worse problem solving and dissatisfaction with continuity of care between different counselors or sessions.
- About 90% of participants agreed or strongly agreed that their counselor provided the services they needed to resolve their nonmedical and related problems.
- More than 90% of the participants were satisfied or very satisfied with the confidentiality of the programs.
- More than 91% of participants said they were likely or very likely to use nonmedical counseling services again. About 95% said they were likely or very likely to recommend nonmedical counseling to a friend.
David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.