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    Texas-based free, confidential counseling program supports its military

    Texas-based free, confidential counseling program supports its military members

    Photo By Mindy Bloem | Jacqueline Carmona, a licensed professional counselor for the Texas Military...... read more read more

    JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – Members and veterans of the Texas National Guard and Texas State Guard can obtain free, confidential help through the Texas Military Department Counseling Program, a service established to promote overall wellness for its military members.

    The service is unique to Texas and may be lesser known than other mental health resources, such as a unit’s director of physiological health or a chaplain.
    TMD counselors are located in Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, Weslaco and El Paso. Since the service is available in-person, over the phone or through video calls, Texas service members need not live in a certain area to receive help.

    “When a caller requests counseling, we gather some details including where the caller is located and what type of counseling they are requesting – in-person or telehealth -- and then we coordinate linking the caller with a counselor,” said Shelley Smith, TMD Counseling Program supervisor. “Confirmation of the linkage generally occurs within 24 hours and the caller is contacted by a counselor often within that same 24 hours.”

    The anonymity and confidentiality features of this program are there to encourage help-seeking behavior. The only time counseling is not completely confidential is when there is a threat that an individual may immediately harm themselves or others.

    “This means that without a client giving authorization to release information, we can’t even confirm or deny that someone is in services with us,” Smith said. “We do this to lessen stigma or the fear that others will find out about an individual’s support needs.

    These counselors aim to advocate for those who come to them for help. If someone has a serious mental health diagnosis or is considered high risk for harm, TMD counselors can connect that person to other services – sometimes more intensive – if needed and wanted.

    “Our counselors are either licensed professional counselors or licensed clinical social workers,” Smith said. “All are very experienced in providing support for most any need someone might have.”

    These counselors are formally trained in various types of therapy and can tailor their support to the religious or cultural needs of a service member. Some common reasons someone may seek counseling are stress, relationship difficulties, depression, sleep difficulties, anger, trauma, grief or even COVID-related issues.

    “COVID brought about a new set of circumstances and stressors far different than anything experienced by most — isolation and disconnection,” Smith said. “Counseling is a good support option not only during COVID, but at any point in life when times get tough.”

    In addition to individual counseling services, this program offers couples counseling, informative group briefings, presentations, and workshops for specific unit challenges. Even family of a service member who has passed away can receive help through the program.

    Both group and individual resources are free and funded through state legislature. The program is designed to provide a resource for service members not insured with mental health benefits, but members who do have insurance with mental health benefits are also welcome to use these counseling services, and their insurance is not billed.

    TMD counselors emphasized that just because these services are free does not diminish the program's value.

    “My grandfather and grandmother served in the military, in which I respected and enjoyed witnessing the sense of unique culture, resiliency, community, and comradery that exists,” said Jacqueline Carmona, TMD Counseling Program mental health counselor in the San Antonio region. “I know that the stigmas of mental health are still a challenge for service members, and I am honored to have the opportunity to reduce those challenges.”

    The counselors of this program hope people will not be deterred from seeking help because of concerns over taking that first step.

    “The TMD Counseling Program was specifically set up to support you,” Smith said. “We’re available and waiting to talk to you, whether we talk just once or you start counseling with us. Our mission is to team up with you to help you live you best life.”

    The 24/7 TMD counseling line can be reached at 512-782-5069. Voicemails are returned within one to two hours.



    Date Taken: 02.02.2022
    Date Posted: 02.02.2022 11:55
    Story ID: 413863
    Location: SAN ANTONIO, TX, US

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