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The Navy is offering remote counseling for mental health for the first time in Hampton Roads 

Fleet and Family Support Center Norfolk headquarters. Feb. 21, 2024. Department of Defense
Fleet and Family Support Center Norfolk headquarters. Feb. 21, 2024. Department of Defense

The Mid-Atlantic Fleet and Family Support Center now offers remote counseling services, the first Naval region in the country to do so.

The concept for remote mental health counseling came out of the pandemic. 

It allows sailors and their families to receive help without going into one of the Fleet and Family Services centers in Hampton Roads. The agency has always offered mental health services outside the chain of command.

“The counseling that we provide here is not documented in their service record or in their medical record. And we don't notify commands that someone is coming in for counseling, it's completely confidential,”  said Tonetta Fox, program coordinator.

Remote counseling potentially adds another layer of privacy for patients. A sailor could schedule a session during a break.

“With virtual counseling, they can attend counseling from their home. They can go out to the parking lot and sit in their car, wherever they're able to find a confidential space to talk with a counselor,” Fox said.

Sailors often ask for help managing the stress of deployment or adjusting to military life. Remote counseling also allows couples to participate in counseling, even when they are in different parts of the country. 

“Perhaps you have a couple where, you know, maybe the wife is living in Texas, and the husband might be in Virginia, because this is where his duty station is,” Fox said.  “For whatever reason, they're not currently living in the same area. So virtual counseling can provide couples counseling to them.”

The Northeast Region, which includes Hampton Roads, has 10 counselors dedicated to remote counseling. Fleet and Family Services has a three-day waiting period for new patients, not including emergencies. As the largest Navy region, it was the first to debut the service full-time. 

“It has been a gradual roll out,” Fox said. “Some of our centers are fully staffed, and some are probably hovering around 75-80%. And of course, it varies by location. But overall, within the Mid-Atlantic region, our staffing is in the approaching 80% currently for our counseling positions.”

To schedule an appointment for remote clinical counseling, individuals can call 1-855-205-6749. 

Steve joined WHRO in 2023 to cover military and veterans. Steve has extensive experience covering the military and working in public media, most recently at KPBS in San Diego, WYIN in Gary, Indiana and WBEZ in Chicago. In the early 2000s, he embedded with members of the Indiana National Guard in Kuwait and Iraq. Steve reports for NPR’s American Homefront Project, a national public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. Steve is also on the board of Military Reporters & Editors.

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