Coaching Into Care—VA Mental Health Coaching Service for Family and Friends of Veterans

steven_johnBy Steven Sayers, Ph.D. and John DeVincent, Psy.D.

This Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving Day, Coaching Into Care (CIC) would like to recognize that our country’s Service Members and Veterans have given much to our country. Their families have also served and sacrificed by supporting them, caring for family when they were deployed, and helping them start new lives when they leave active duty. We are grateful for their courage and strength.

Recognizing the role of the family
Family members play an important role in supporting Veterans when they are in need of help, and the Department of Veterans Affairs has resources to assist them through an innovative program called Coaching Into Care (CIC). Celebrating its third year, this free and confidential VA helpline helps callers discover new ways to talk with a Veteran about their concerns and treatment options. The program’s mission is to educate, support, and empower family members and friends who are seeking care or services for a Veteran, with an end goal of encouraging distressed Veterans to successfully access VA care anywhere in the United States.

CIC began as a pilot program at the Philadelphia and Durham VA Medical Centers in January 2010. In June 2011, it expanded nationally with the addition of the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center and expanded the coverage hours to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EDT. To date, CIC has helped around 7,000 callers, and approximately 3,000 in just this past year.

CIC call responders and coaches have expertise in understanding mental health issues, navigating the services and programs at VA facilities across the country, and talking with family members about their concerns. We provide support and psycho-education, assess needs and strengths, and help problem-solve the steps callers can take to support their Veteran in making a decision to seek professional help.

Our highly trained responders and licensed mental health professional provide these free services:

  • Encouragement and information about getting an evaluation and services
  • Coaching to help callers develop an empathic understanding of the Veteran’s experience and ideas for improving communication with the Veteran
  • Suggestions about self-care and education about Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
  • Problem-solving in how to try different approaches and address unmet needs
  • Referrals to services and support resources for Veterans and their family members or friends

Linking to partner resources
Callers can receive assistance over the course of one or several phone calls, sometimes spanning several months. Coaching often involves referrals to educational materials and information from partner web sites, such as the National Center for PTSD that not only provides information about all aspects of combat stress and treatment, but also includes tips for helping a family member.

After Deployment and Defense Centers of Excellence offer sound mental health information in a military context. Real Warriors offers extensive resources and tips for Veterans and families, and the video testimonials on Make the Connection and About Face aim to reduce the stigma of seeking help.

One of the best ways family members can help a struggling Veteran is by learning all they can about the issues they face. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance offers tools for understanding mood disorders and recovery resources as well as support groups across the country. The Families for Depression Awareness website offers family stories, mental health tools, webinars, and information about helping yourself and others.

While family members most frequently use our service (72% of callers), anyone with concerns about a Veteran may call CIC.

  • Spouses worried about withdrawal and emotional distancing
  • Mothers not knowing what else to do for a Veteran daughter who isolates all day, cannot find work, and snaps when asked what’s wrong
  • Grandparents worried about drugs or alcohol
  • Sons and daughters desperate to help their depressed parent
  • Friends, bosses, providers, and community members

When a Veteran you know needs help, call Coaching Into Care at (888) 823-7458 Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EDT. Visit the CIC Facebook page to find additional tips.


  • What experiences have you had, with anyone, where a “Coaching Into Care” model would have been helpful?
  • In what ways might a coaching model be useful in your area? Who would be best to implement it?
  • Which organizations also provide coaching services to help people help loved ones to get mental health care?

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