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New Directions: Two Military Programs Offer Opportunities to Clinical Mental Health Counselors
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New Directions: Two Military Programs Offer Opportunities to Clinical Mental Health Counselors

By Gray Otis, PhD, LPC, CCMHC
AMHCA President, 2011–2012

Where are you going? We often see clients who are heading in directions that are not beneficial. We rejoice with them when they become self-directed in new ways that are hopeful and more successful. 

Likewise, I get excited when our association continues to find new opportunities that support AMHCA’s members and makes a contribution to our professional standing as clinical mental health counselors.

Army OneSource Is an Opportunity We Can All Take Advantage of

Army OneSource helps returning veterans and their families deal with the aftermath of combat-related disorders. This initiative helps military members contact clinical mental health counselors (CMHCs) to provide services. Free training is available, which includes no-cost CEUs. The training qualifies CMHCs to work effectively with veterans—to speak their language and to understand the sometimes monstrous problems they face.

Last week an Army soldier came to me fearful that there was nothing that could be done to save his marriage. After repeated tours to Iraq and Afghanistan, problems that had plagued him most of his adult life came roaring back. His wife of many years was ready to give up. When he first came in, he stated, “No one knows what we have to face—the constant fear, the loss of my buddies, the unrelenting nightmares. It’s like I spent months in hell and no one here even knows there is a war going on. I can’t stand it anymore.”

He is not alone. In fact, there are thousands who “can’t stand it anymore.” Often they won’t go to military medical facilities because they fear that their military career will be ruined, and they literally cannot afford to take that chance. Some in the National Guard or Reserves often live far removed from VA or other resources. They do not know where to turn for help.

At our Annual Conference in July, a representative of Army OneSource, Cindy Watson, set up a booth to explain how clinical mental health counselors can become involved with this program. By taking the free online Army OneSource courses, your contact information will be made available to military service members seeking help.

Although this is an officially sponsored program, it cuts out the red tape so that veterans can get the assistance they need. The services provided by clinical mental health counselors are paid for by the veterans or their insurance providers.

I encourage each of you to give consideration to participating in Army OneSource. 
Click here to find out more. Click on the tab “New Users” to set up your account. The code to use is “aosva amhca.” The whole process takes less than five minutes. I have signed up and I hope you will, too.

Army’s Substance Abuse Program Directed to Employ Qualified CMHCs

In another note, the Secretary of the Army, John M. McHugh, recently announced a directive that “authorizes the Army Substance Abuse Program (ASAP) to employ licensed professional counselors and licensed mental health counselors as independent practitioners.” This is a major Army initiative to expand counseling services to its 

To be eligible to be hired, clinical mental health counselors must be licensed, must have passed NBCC’s National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE), and must have graduated from a CACREP-accredited program. I have written to Mr. McHugh to strongly urge him to suspend the CACREP requirement so that the Army can obtain the best possible pool of fully qualified counselor applicants.

Nevertheless, with the advent of proposals by Army OneSource, TRICARE, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, clinical mental health counselors have the opportunity to play a greater role in nationally recognized health initiatives. 

We need to do all that we can to engage in provider support, make our presence known, and become visible participants in public mental health programs. 

This is a critical juncture for our profession. There is no question that there is an expanding need for clinical mental health counseling. The cries for help come from every part of our society. We need clinically competent counselors to treat the needs of those who have little or no hope. It is our time to expand beyond the boundaries that have prevented us from offering our skills. Let’s take advantage of every opportunity that we can so that our profession can expand in new directions.