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Chaplain’s Family Life Counseling makes stronger, healthier Fort Riley community

By Season Osterfeld | 1ST INF. DIV. POST | September 15, 2017

      Fear, stress, loneliness, problems at home and more are only some of the issues Chap. (Maj.) Kent Coffey hopes to assist Soldiers, families and civilians through the Chaplain’s Family Life Counseling pro­gram at Fort Riley.

     Coffey the garrison family life chaplain, views himself as a free resource for everyone in the Fort Riley community, regardless of religious beliefs, to take advantage of in their time of need. He takes pride in his policy of absolute confidentiality for all their clients as well as his extensive training in therapy techniques like Eye Movement Desensitiza­tion and Reprocessing.

     “What makes us unique is first and foremost our confidentiality piece,” Coffey said. “Our con­fidentiality is absolute, so it doesn’t matter what a Soldier or family members tells me, I can’t tell any­one. I can’t call the police; I can’t notify FAP (Family Assistance Program) or anything like that because confidentiality stays with the Soldier.”

     “The other unique thing that kind of separates us from others too is that I’m trained in what’s called EMDR, which is a trauma treatment, and there are very few in the behavioral health or (Military and Family Life Consultants) field that are trained in it. EMDR is a very useful tool for helping Soldiers overcome PTSD. It’s helpful for rape victims or child abuse in your past, all kinds of trauma that’s occurred in a Soldier or family members past.”

     Coffey takes his client’s confidentially seriously, going so far as to include a white noise machine in the hallway during appointments and declining to respond to commanders if they enquire as to whether or not a Soldier saw him.

      To reach his qualification as a family life coun­selor, Coffey underwent a master’s degree program through the Chaplain Corps, providing him with a degree that matches what some MFLCs and behav­ioral health professionals have, he said.

     “The Chaplain Corps sends us to an 18-month intensive master’s degree program where we come out of that with an MA in counseling with an em­phasis in marriage and family therapy, so in many ways I’m exactly like either an MFLEC or poten­tially somebody at behavioral health except I didn’t pursue (my license),” Coffey said.

     The counseling Coffey provides differs from that of a battalion chaplain’s. While a Soldier may only see their battalion chaplain about an issue once or twice, they can have appointments with Coffey over prolonged time to work through their situa­tion, he said.

     “The center becomes more of a place for longer term therapy,” Coffey said. “There are clients who have been coming here for over a year. That’s not uncommon.”

     Coffey offers what he refers to as pastoral coun­seling, but that does not mean clients need to be of any religious denomination or include religion into their sessions in any way, he said.

     “That sounds kind of preachy, but it’s not be­cause pastoral counseling can be everything from someone having a problem with something in a bible fitting (in) with something that’s happening in their life to not even mentioning the bible, not even mentioning God because that’s not what they’re here for,” he said. “We’re able to provide both ends. We’re the only component on post that’s able to of­fer spiritual counseling, but it’s not a have to thing.”

     At present, Coffey is the only counselor and sees about 15 clients, however, he hopes to grow the program with a greater number of clients and coun­selors. The additional counselors will be through a partnership he hopes to reinvigorate with Kansas State University master’s degree and Ph.D. stu­dents — a partnership that once existed and he said would be of mutual benefit.

     “In expanding this program, ultimately our big goal is to reinvigorate a relationship with K-State to get some of their master’s or even Ph.D. stu­dents here to donate some hours as well,” Coffey said. “It helps them; it helps us help more Soldiers and families.”

     The Chaplain’s Family Life Counseling pro­gram is not an emergency resource. For those need­ing immediate care, they should contact emergency chaplain, who is available 24/7, at 785-239-4357.

     To schedule an appointment with Coffey, call 785-239-3436 or email kent.s.coffey.mil@mail.mil.

     “Our hope, of course, is what we’re sending back out are people who are more ready, more resilient, better benefit to their command because if you’ve got issues in your home, you’re taking time off of work, your motivation is low and it’s just always on your mind,” Coffey said.

 

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