Free Counseling for Military Families across U.S.

by Give an Hour

It is a very special year for Give an Hour as we mark our 10th anniversary of providing free and easily accessible mental health services to the military, their families, and their communities.

Ten years ago, Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen a psychologist in the Washington, D.C. area, recognized that as a country and as individuals we needed to do more to help those who so bravely served our country and now were facing mental health struggles and reintegration challenges.   Her idea was to have mental health professionals donate a little of their time to provide mental health care to our nation’s returning troops and their families. This simple idea and the need for these critical services has led to a national volunteer network of nearly 7,000 providers who have given over 170,000 hours of mental health care valued at over $17 million. 

Give an Hour volunteers and providers are the backbone of our organization. The 2015 Military Spouse of the Year and Give an Hour volunteer, Corie, shares her own experience to help military couples work through reintegration and other stress. In an interview with blogger Terri, Corie relayed how she practices a principle she learned as a licensed professional counselor, “say out loud the things that are hard to say out loud." It is the help of these unique and generous providers that enable Give an Hour to provide help over the last 10 years and will enable us to continue to fulfill our mission to provide free and accessible mental health care to our military community. 

Over the past 10 years, Give an Hour has been a rewarding journey for Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, President and Founder of Give an Hour. She says, “We have learned that no one organization or entity can provide all that our service members and their families need. We have learned that one size does not fit all when it comes to healing the invisible injuries of war. And we have learned that in order to provide for the mental health needs of those who serve, we must also address the societal issues that prevent them for seeking and receiving care.” In order to address mental health stigmas, this past spring, Give an Hour, expanded its work to include the Campaign to Change Direction, a collective impact effort to change the culture of mental health in America. Give an Hour and its partners address common barriers to understanding mental health and raise awareness about Five Signs that may indicate someone is suffering emotionally and in need of help, so that all citizens can act on their desire to be caring to those showing signs of suffering.


Heading Back to School: Give an Hour Student Liaisons Serve as Ambassadors Across the Country

Give an Hour, marking its 10th year anniversary this year, is a national nonprofit organization providing free and confidential mental health services to members of the military, veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, their loved ones, and their communities, recently announced that its network of 7,000 licensed mental health professionals has donated 163,283 hours of mental health services.

At the national average cost of $100 per hour for mental health counseling, Give an Hour providers have donated over $16.3 million since 2007. This latest figure represents an increase of 37% (44,000 hours) in total time donated over last year. In the last three months alone, Give an Hour providers donated 7,800 hours of services; 5,000 of these hours were face-to-face counseling. 

Valued volunteer contributors, Give an Hour Student Liaisons serve as ambassadors by creating awareness of our mission and services to student and faculty members at colleges and universities nationwide. One of our highly appreciated Student Liaisons is Kailyn B. She writes: 

As an Air Force veteran, I feel a strong pull to continue to serve my comrades - past, present, and future. When I         heard about Give an Hour, I knew I had to get involved. In the fall, I will begin the 3rd year of my doctoral program in clinical psychology. As I dive deeper into my studies and research of the military community, I am confronted with facts about the great divide between the military community and the civilian community. A recent study by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the RAND Corporation found there was a lack of understanding among community providers about military culture and resources available for veterans, despite the fact that one in six Americans is either a servicemember, veteran, or military dependent. Knowing that veterans have higher rates of mental health issues and are at a higher suicide risk than civilians makes it my passion to work to bridge this divide.

I wanted to get involved with Give an Hour because I believe in its mission - to spread awareness about the psychological needs of the military community and to provide information and professional training to providers and future providers so the military community can get the support it needs. As a student liaison, I have taken this mission to my university by requesting the inclusion of the military community as part of our curriculum and class discussions. I have also arranged for military providers to come speak at our school, providing students insight into what it is like to work with the military community. As the chair for our student government organization, I have advocated for projects to help veterans in the local community.

I plan to continue my work in spreading the word about the services that Give an Hour provides and about the mental health needs of the military community.

I am very grateful for my military training, and I wish to contribute back to the military by supporting the servicemembers, veterans, and their families. Give an Hour has given me the opportunity to do so.                                                                

Everyone is affected by the experience of war – those who have served and their loved ones need help dealing with after effects of service. By providing services that are confidential and separate from military resources, Give an Hour offers an essential service for men and women who might otherwise fail to seek or receive appropriate help.

We are grateful to Kailyn and all of our Give an Hour Student Liaisons who make a difference on campuses across the country.

We are thankful to our Global Giving donors who help to make our work possible. Thank you.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month
May is Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and serves as a call to action to bring attention to the issue of mental health. Many people are unaware that one in five citizens in the United States has a diagnosable mental health condition and that more Americans are expected to die this year by suicide than in car accidents.

When someone suffers from emotional distress or mental illness it is not uncommon for people to suggest that the struggles will pass or the person should get over it. But as a society we need to reach out when someone we care about is suffering emotionally in the same way that we would if the person was experiencing physical illness. As a result of the stigma associated with mental health, a person often suffers alone and in silence. Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, the founder of Give an Hour, a national nonprofit dedicated to providing free mental health counseling to service members, veterans, and their families, recently wrote: "In our society we are quick to try to make it ok, to say it will pass, and to say, deal with it. We really don’t listen to ourselves and we don’t listen to others very effectively.” 

At Give an Hour, we do not believe that any person, military or civilian, should suffer alone. And thanks to friends like our Global Giving supporters, people don't have to. 

Following the terrorists attacks of September 11, 2001, Sarah joined the United States Air Force, having felt the need to do something purposeful. Sarah worked in many facets of the Air Force, supporting the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and volunteering to help injured troops evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan. During this time, Sarah survived a devastating sexual and physical assault. The mental and physical consequences of this attack resulted in her medical discharge from the Air Force. After her discharge, Sarah decided to enter college and earn a degree in social work, enabling her to serve as a Peer Mentor to veterans. Yet, even with a busy and rewarding career and a strong family support system, Sarah continued to suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress. Sarah recognized that she needed help but discovered that she needed services beyond what was available through military mental health resources. Fortunately for Sarah, she found Give an Hour, which—with a network of nearly 7,000 licensed mental health providers—was able to connect her to a counselor. Today, Sarah continues to heal and looks forward to becoming a licensed clinical social worker so she can join Give an Hour as a provider and reach out to someone else who needs help.

Thank you again to all our Global Giving donors and mental health professionals for helping us help Sarah and many others like her.

Barbara Van Dahlen, founder and president, GAH
Barbara Van Dahlen, founder and president, GAH
Free and confidential mental health services
Free and confidential mental health services
Sarah looks forward to helping others
Sarah looks forward to helping others
Barbara Van Dahlen, founder and president, GAH
Barbara Van Dahlen, founder and president, GAH

For Give an Hour 2015 is a very special year as we mark our 10th anniversary of providing critical mental health services to those who serve, their families, and their communities. 

Give an Hour started as an idea that we can and must do better with and for this generation of veterans; that we can and must capitalize on the spirit of service our military men, women, and families embody; that we can and must work together for the common good. 

“Not all scars are visible to the human eye.  We all have them inside.  It is what we choose to do with those battle wounds that make the difference. I will never be cured, but I can manage my condition and today I am able to have hope for a better tomorrow.” Jennifer - U.S. Army Veteran, Operation Enduring Freedom 

At the tender age of 17, Jennifer joined the military seeking guidance and stability. She deployed to Afghanistan and earned the right to call herself a veteran of foreign war at 20 years old. When Jennifer came home, the effects of war remained. The flashbacks of bodies and explosions consumed her.  Jennifer began to self medicate with illicit drugs, could not hold a job, and ended up homeless.  She was arrested and given a choice — stay sober and get help for her PTSD or go to jail. She entered a local drug court program, had the support of a longtime friend, and received proper treatment. After her VA benefits expired, she was able to keep seeing her therapist, at no cost, through Give an Hour.

Today, Jennifer is the capable mother of two and is employed as a nurse at a hospital. She still sees her GAH therapist and continues her role as a spokesperson for Give an Hour.

Give an Hour has learned many things over the last decade. In particular, we have learned that one size doesn't fit all when it comes to providing care and support to our military and veteran community. 

Our mission could not be accomplished without the generosity of our providers, who sign on to donate one hour of their time each week. Thanks to the nearly 7,000 providers who make up Give an Hour’s national network, we have given over 145,000 hours of care, valued at over $14.5 million.

We believe we have not only the potential but the duty to help one another in times of need. Thank you to all our Global Giving donors and mental health professionals for making that happen.


Ryan and his daughters
Ryan and his daughters

At the heart of Give an Hour’s mission is the military community ….

Ryan is a 32-year-old Navy veteran living in Dallas, Texas, with his wife and three daughters, ages 8, 6, and 4. Today he is employed as an Explosives Specialist at Dallas Love Field airport, where he uses the knowledge and expertise he gained as a member of one of the Navy’s elite Explosives Ordnance Disposal units.

Ryan deployed to Iraq twice, first in 2007 and then again in 2008. His first day in Iraq involved disarming seven roadside bombs. Ryan earned the Bronze Star Medal, Combat Action Ribbon during his 2007 deployment, having responded to over 150 EOD/Combat Missions. He disarmed one IED by hand and another in a bomb suit. Ryan also earned an Army Commendation Medal during his 2008 deployment, during which he responded to six IEDs and disposed of over 6,000 pounds of captured enemy explosives.

During that time, in addition to the stresses of combat, Ryan was dealing with other developments at home. His oldest daughter suffered from two major seizures while he was deployed, and his middle daughter was born during another deployment; he didn’t see her until she was three months old. Like many people—civilian or military—Ryan knew things “weren’t right” but avoided seeking help. He and his wife kept pushing on, trying and hoping for things to get better. In May 2012, after serving over 9 years, Ryan was medically separated from the Navy for PTSD.

And then in 2013, Ryan became depressed and hopeless and contemplated suicide. The only reason he did not pull the trigger was because his family was home. He began seeing a mental health professional, and although he is still healing, he recognizes that he wouldn’t be where he is today without the help of Give an Hour. Ryan notes, “If my story can help even one person . . . if I can encourage one person to get help, to let them know they are not alone, then that’s what I want to do.” Give an Hour was created for Ryan and others like him—who have come home with the understandable invisible injuries of war.

The war in Afghanistan is winding down, and many of the 2.6 million who have served over the past 13 years in this conflict and the war in Iraq have already separated from the military and returned to communities across the country. Some of these men and women—people like Ryan—may be your neighbors, your co-workers, or your friends. Hopefully, you know who they are. Hopefully, they are getting what they need to build the lives they deserve. Over the next five years, hundreds of thousands more will separate from the military and head home to our towns and cities. As a nation, we should welcome them home by doing more than just thanking them for their service.  Our job as a nation is to identify appropriate opportunities and ensure access to effective care. At Give an Hour our focus is on ensuring that we provide quality mental health care and support to those who serve, their families, and their communities. We couldn't do the important work that we do without the support of our generous providers, volunteers, and our GlobalGiving donors.

Thank you.

Man in the Mirror
Man in the Mirror



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Organization Information

Give an Hour

Location: Bethesda, MD - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Sally Charney
Director of Communications and Partnerships
Bethesda, MD United States
$106,786 raised of $175,000 goal
1,473 donations
$68,214 to go
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