Chaplains: Do they stand in the way of a service member getting the counseling they need?

Chaplains: Do they stand in the way of a service member getting the needed counseling they need?
Several years ago I had a troop who had “issues.” She and her husband had separated. He had actually hit her. She’d called the MPs and so on. He was sent to counseling. She wasn’t. He told the counselors and her that he’d never ever hit a women before.
Well, she ends up my troop. Before it’s all over with, I find myself doing everything I can to stop swing a punch at her chin. I succeed. I was taken aback at my actions. Fortunately, there was a good sized desk separating us.
Had it been a guy, I’d have decked him.
So I went to see a SGM I knew. He didn’t have a degree in psychology, but he did have on in Educational Psychology. And over 30 years experience in the military.
His recommendation after our talk was that she be sent to a counselor.
Well I went to the commander about it and he would only send her to see the chaplain.
Now, these guys are not counselors. They are trained to deal with religion and what have you.
Before it’s all over with, she’s charged with shoplifting in the Exchange.
The last thing I ever said to her was, “Sgt, you may now sign your Rights Warning Statement…”

I’ve seen this with other soldiers. Had one who came from an abusive environment. He was young, dumb and full of cum, but had good potential. But before it’s all over with, he’s kicked out of the service.

Are we doing our service members a dis-service by sending them to the Chaplains instead of professional counselors?
Or are we just being lazy?
What’s your take on this?

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Replies to This Discussion

Absolutely. Hire professionals to deal with emotional and pscyhological issues, not witch doctors.
Part of the problem is that as soldiers we are built up to think we are supermen/women. To ask for help suggests weakness. To be offered help is sometimes taken as an insult. When a soldier does take the opportunity to get help we should be sure that it is the best available. If it isn't a spiritual crisis, skip the chappie.
My take on this is from a semi-outsider/insider perspective. My son in a Navy RP. He told me that more and more chaplains these days have counseling degrees. In fact he's even met a few chaplains who were effectively atheists/agnostics. The military seems to be considering requiring all chaplains to have counseling degrees now since there are so many religions in the country now. Seems like a good idea to me.
[FYI: I was ineligible for service (medical reasons). I found that out when I tried to enlist. I am enjoying my son's service since it gives me a little view into that world. Wish I'd been able to join.]
I dated a girl who was raised catholic. She was in abusive marriage. They were having problems so they went to a "Christian" marriage counselor. It was all her fault, as per the bible.
Well, it got to the point where she just got her purse and left. She went home to her family. Went to see their family priest.
She unloaded on him. When she got to the point of the marriage counseling, he stopped her and asked if it was a “Christian” counselor. She was taken aback and said it was.
He told her that those people do more harm then good. They think they were doing right, but in fact, they hurt more people then they helped.
He told her she had done nothing wrong in leaving him. She hadn’t sinned. It wasn’t her, it was him. She had in fact, done the right thin.
That did more for her then anything else. But later she did go to a professional counselor.
There is at least one sane priest out there…
But I do agree with you. They hurt more then help.
Yup...Religion is dangerous.
Hi - I'm not in the service, but wanted to add to this post (so I'll unjoin the group in a minute). I've been going to counseling off-and-on since I was 7, including domestic violence counseling. Christian counselors ARE inherently flawed. My current therapist happens to BE a Christian, but is a mental health counselor first (and only, in my case. She knows and respects my atheism.) I picked her because she specializes in cult recovery. (Sadly, most cult specialists ARE Christian.)

My Episcopal priest was actually the person who first suggested, "Maybe you ought to look into divorce." Since he was the guy who married us (less than 8 months earlier) I figured that gave me whatever spiritual permission from god I thought I had to ask for, in order to avoid more abuse. So, there are two sane priests.
I think Andrew made a very good point. I think the society of the military has a lot to do with it. And the nature of what is asked of the military.
Now this is my own take on our society. Just mine, no one else’s.
Think of the US society as a big circle. Attached to that circle is another circle. They overlap. The second circle is the US Military. The overlapping part is where the Reserves and National Guard are. This leads be to say that we walk in both “worlds.”
The military is a lifestyle. It’s different then main stream America. There are different unspoken rules then those that exist in main stream America.
What those in the Military circle and overlapping area are asked to do cannot be found in the main stream. You really don’t want to have a militarized society. Those have never lasted. Sparta no longer exists.
As Andrew pointed out, the people are directed to think of themselves as “super” men. Bullets bounce off one’s chest. If something terrible happens, you drive on. In a war zone that’s appropriate, but in the peace time military or in the civilian sector, that does not apply well.
Maybe those who resists see this as a failure on their part as leaders or commanders?
Chaplains are not trained psychologists nor psychiatrists. They are, in short, spiritual leaders vis-à-vis teachers. And as I have stated before, it’s easier for a commander to send a troop to see a Chaplin then send them to get mental health.
I assume it’s looked down upon. Which I find odd since so much time and money has been spent by the military to educated people about psychological issues.
Could it be the nature of the beast?
Could we be promoting a twisted “survival of the fittest?”
Had a guy in my guard unit. He was with the 82nd. During a jump he landed in a fighting position that had not been properly filled in. In short, two hours later he was able to crawl out of the hole and they eventually found him. He was really busted up. Eventually got some disability out of it.
He did come back and make one more jump to prove he could do it.
But, overall they saw him as “unfit” and a burden to the unit. They didn’t say it personally but as the man told me, you could just tell.
Of course, we’re now seeing what happens with the amount of personnel suffering from PTSD.
What’s really sad it that the causes of PTSD have been known for close to three decades. Even going back to WWII, they tried to rotate soldiers off the front lines so they could rest and recover. Maybe if we’d have had enough troops, that could have been done? Well, I’ll save that for another time and blog.
But, having personally tried to get a soldier of mine some professional counseling and all I got was to send them to the chaplain, the troop never got the help they needed. It’s is sad because this person had some issues going way back to childhood. At their core they were a good person. I could see that. But, the issues they had stopped them from having a much fuller life.
Before my divorce, while I was on active duty, in an attempt to salvage what was left of my marriage, I decided to seek out marital counseling. At the time, you could talk with a chaplain and have confidentiality but I would not have had the same confidentiality (and would have risked my security clearance) if I had gone to a counseling professional. So I ended up seeing a chaplain. The chaplain I saw got so distressed at my atheism that he was incapable of helping me deal with my marital issues. He told me he couldn't help me until he "saved" me, and said he thought god had sent him to me in order for him to "make me see the light".
I wish I’d had known you back then. I’d have told you to go to the counselors. I don’t know how bad your problems were, but in reality, all you had to do was list it on your security bring up.
I use to process clearances and saw numerous times where people had gone in for counseling. All you have to do is be honest on your paperwork about it.
Of course, if your problems were so severe (like you thought Torri Spelling was THE best actress of al time), they threw you in the padded room and pumped you full of Thorzine, well, then I think you’d have had your clearance pulled anyway.
But not for just seeking some counseling due to marriage related problems.
As I have mentioned before, a lot of people need to get counseling but don’t. Not that they are crazy or unbalanced, but sometimes you need a professional to talk to, vis-à-vis a trained third party.
Chaplains are NOT…that’s NOT trained for this. They do have their ears bent buy people who need someone to talk too. And there might be those who do recommend that they find professional help.
But that’s not their mission.
As a result, service personnel a dealt a band hand and come up short.
I’m sorry that you had to go through that.
I hoped it worked out for you in the long run.
I'm probably one of the weirdest atheists ever, but I never turned down a chance to talk to the chaplin. They tend to be of decent ranking, often better educated and very well mannered compared to the vast majority of their fellow officers (seriously no offense to officers here, but in the infantry I met literally dozens of incompetent brass). To be honest I have no memory of running into any fire and brimstone chaplins and if I had I would have made their life shitty- remember they have to see you if they're available. Muah-hah-hah! I too met several chaplins who were essential agnostics/atheists who were considered "multi-faith" and could counsel on a wide variety of religious matters. Really interesting wonderful people. Most chaplins, I think would do whatever they could to help you whenever you need help.
Then again, I never had to speak to one over a divorce or anything that may have made their Christian roots rise up and tangle our feet. For you guys who are still in, you can't get in trouble for asking the chaplin religious questions. If a chaplin's a cock, start asking him leading questions about his faith. It wouldn't be long before he'd dive out his office window everytime he heard you coming.


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