When things are falling apart, there are resources available to Army couples.

Marriage Counseling in the Army

by Christopher L. Smith

Military life adds particular stresses to the relationships of married couples. The U.S. Army acknowledges this and provides multiple avenues to help including chaplains, special consultants, short-term counseling and marriage counseling similar to what is offered in the civilian world. Utilizing these tools can greatly help each partner in a marriage and the relationship as a whole.


Chaplains are specially trained to provide pre-marital counseling, marriage services and marriage retreats. As chaplains are not part of the formal counseling system in the military, many service members will turn to the chaplain for help with their marriage even if they are not part of the worshiping community on post. All chaplains have training to provide some level of marriage counseling. Some chaplains have specialized advanced training and are designated as family life chaplains. Beyond training, chaplains also provide confidentiality, something that may be of particular concern to spouses in the Army.

Military Family Life Consultants

On your military facility, there should be an Army Community Service or similar center of another branch if you are on a joint facility. This resource will help you find Military Family Life consultants, civilians who are licensed to provide counseling. Within the Military Family Life program, a consultant will counsel you on your schedule and terms. Generally, the areas they will work with you on are not ones that will require an extended period of time but will be short-term and solution-focused.

Military OneSource

In the civilian world, some companies have employee assistance programs. Military OneSource is the Army's way of providing similar assistance to members of the military and their dependents. Military OneSource utilizes a network of civilian counselors and will authorize you and your husband to see the counselor for up to six to 12 sessions. You would generally see the counselor in a regular practice setting off base. With the number of sessions limited, this option is good if you have particular issues to address and are not yet at the point where there is complicated history to wade through. When that is the case, consider utilizing benefits through TRICARE, your medical insurance provided through the military. Also keep in mind that these plans may be more likely to cover family counseling than marital counseling.

Traditional Sources

After exploring the above options, particularly if the situation is severe, you may decide that you need to pursue more extensive counseling assistance. To do this, you can utilize the services of the behavioral health unit of the MEDCOM on your base. Through this avenue, the counselor you are working with will be a member of the military and the work engaged in will be part of the chart of any service member involved. While there may be issues with that, especially in the case of someone needing particular clearances, there will also be issues with the impact this has on performance if it is not addressed. As a result, it is important that you think through these options and then pursue what will help you gain peace and wholeness as an individual and within your relationship.

About the Author

Based in New York City, Christopher L. Smith has been writing since the 1998 publication of "Honest Talk About Serious Mental Illness." Smith brings professional experience in education, religion/spirituality and mental health, including as a licensed marriage and family therapist. Among Smith's graduate degrees is a M.Div. from Yale.

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