Army Counseling Class

Today, I would like to provide a short post about Army Counseling Class.  I want to teach you the ropes of Army Counseling and help you become a better leader.  This is by no means a 100% solution to your leadership challenges, but it will provide a basic foundation about Army Counseling, so you will know what you are supposed to do.  Let’s get started.

Leadership development is the most important responsibility of every leader.  And one of the best and most effective ways to develop your subordinates is through performance counseling.  When it comes to counseling, you have two options: verbal counseling and written counseling.  While verbal counseling is better than no counseling at all, written counseling is at least 10 times more effective than verbal counseling.

When you put things in writing, two things happen.  First and foremost, the soldier will take you much more seriously.  Additionally, you will create a paper trail, in case you have to recommend an UCMJ Action or write a bad evaluation report for the soldier.  When in doubt, I recommend you put everything in writing.

Listed below are the steps you should follow to conduct your counseling properly.

STEP # 1: Educate Yourself

The first thing you need to do is educate yourself about Army Counseling.  I recommend you read Army FM 22-101 (Army Leadership Counseling), FM 6-22 (Army Leadership) and FM 7-21.13 (Soldier’s Guide).  These FMs will give you an overview of your responsibilities as a leader.  Make it a goal to read for 30 minutes a day.  Within a month or two, you will have read these three documents.  Another option is to sit down with your boss to get some guidance or input.  You can also visit different websites (such as this one) to learn the ropes and educate yourself.

STEP # 2: Determine Your Responsibilities

The second step in the process is to determine your responsibilities as a leader.  At a minimum, you must counsel your E-4s and below once a month on a DA Form 4856.  You must counsel your NCOs and Officers once a quarter (every 90 days).  All of this counseling must be in writing.

STEP # 3: Create Counseling Packets or Files

The next thing you need to do is to create a counseling packet for everyone you directly supervise.  You can use a file folder.  This is where you store all of the counseling forms in one place.  It’s also a good place to store the person’s previous evaluation reports, any personal information, awards, notes, etc.  Make sure this packet is placed in a secure location so it doesn’t come up missing.

STEP # 4: Prepare for the Counseling

In this step you must prepare for the counseling session.  This is easily the most time consuming step in the process.  You want to make sure that put some thought into the counseling.  Do your homework and research.  Spend a few hours preparing and getting ready.  This will save you lots of time during the actual counseling session.  Make sure you collect all the facts and pertinent information.

STEP # 5: Conduct the Counseling

The next step is to conduct the counseling.  If you have prepared properly, this should be fairly easy to do.  The most common types of counseling are initial, quarterly and performance based counseling.  When you do the counseling, sit down with the person in private (unless you need a witness) and conduct the counseling face-to-face.  Tell them why they are meeting with you and what you want to talk about.  Create a simple agenda to follow, and try to keep the counseling session to no more than 30 minutes. 

STEP # 6: Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up

This is what separates good leaders from great leaders.  Follow-up is the most important part of the counseling process.  This is where you provide verbal feedback with the soldier informing them of their performance AFTER the counseling session.  You also need to make sure they are the following the action plan you outlined for them during the counseling session.  Try to provide feedback regularly, so there are no surprises during your next counseling session.  When possible, put your feedback in writing too.

Final Thoughts

I hope my Army Counseling Class helps.  I suggest you check out my archive for counseling on this website to read our other articles and posts.

I’d like to close by telling you that counseling is the most important part of your job.  Even if your boss does not sit down and counsel you properly, you still have the responsibility to counsel and develop your subordinates.  You need to “make the time” in your busy schedule to get this done.  By doing so, you will improve morale in your unit, your followers will respect you more and the overall performance in your unit will improve.

If you have any comments, suggestions or questions, you can post those below.

Thanks and Good luck!

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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4 thoughts on “Army Counseling Class”

  1. Suzanne Bowen

    Writing one’s counseling is important in Army Counseling and in all types of counseling in other industries and jobs. I think maybe a reading focus group among interested parties would help, too, with the texts Army FM 22-101 Army Leadership Counseling, FM 6-22 Army Leadership and FM 7-21.13 Soldier’s Guide as the target for discussion.

  2. Neil ODonnell

    Counseling is definitely a top priority for both helping subordinates manage their responsibilities and maintaining unit cohesion. As for documentation, failure to record details from counseling sessions could certainly make it problematic down the line if it becomes necessary for a Commanding Officer to recommend UCMJ Action. It would be difficult to prosecute or assist a subordinate if no comprehensive written record was maintained.

    1. My point of view is that if it isn’t in writing, it’s not counseling. Verbal counseling is an okay starting point, but it isn’t even 10% as effective as written counseling. Even worse, when you do a verbal counseling there is no proof. It is simply your word against your soldier’s word. As a leader, I learned a long time ago to take a few extra minutes and document everything: the good, the bad and the ugly. Even though it takes a few extra minutes now, it saves you lots of time and headaches in the long run.

  3. The most important step to me in this outline is step 6. Follow up is the most important part of receiving counseling or care. Counseling has to typically be practiced regularly in order to be most effective. It shows a level of caring from the counselor that is very important.

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