I’m a school counselor at a High School at a military post overseas. I’ve recently spoken with several concerned students about various security clearance concerns. Some of these worries are keeping my students (most of are 18 years old) from seeking help so I’d like to clarify what’s truth from what’s a rumor. Here’s a few common questions: “I’m applying for a job at XYZ on post and have to do a security clearance (assume Tier 1 based on the job) I’m afraid I won’t get cleared because I saw the ADAPT or ASAP counselor about my alcohol or drug use” (even students who say they are no longer using are concerned). Another common one is “I won’t get accepted in my desired job (usually pilot) in the military because I had ADHD as a kid” . Can you address some general things that would cause a negative response on background check (especially Tier 1) that showed some sort of mental health or drug treatment? Is just visiting a military mental health clinic dangerous to your future as my student suspect?
I hope as a teacher you do some more research on this site and others and present correct terms and such. A Tier 1 is the minimum requirement to get a badge for long term access to a government facility and has nothing to do with a security clearance. Tier 3 is Secret which is most positions in the military. Last, as found in many places on this site, the Adjudicative Desk Reference will tell you everything you want to know about mental health, alcohol and illegal drug use. No one can give you the book answer because each situation is different and evaluated on its own merits.
Hmm guess I do need more info on the correct terms and while the desk reference was a nice review of what all counselors know about mental health it didn’t help me to gain info to ease my student’ fears. I do hope for my students’ sake that someone who really understands adolescent mental health issues is the one making these types of decisions. I was hoping for more specific guidance about that issue as it seems I’m seeing anecdotal evidence that in your youth even brief mental health counseling at a military clinic can cause you problems for seeking government employment. My assumption was we don’t hear about those that sought help (counseling, etc) and later have no difficulties with security clearance, background checks, etc, If you have info to share about that I’d love to hear it.
If they are concerned about their youthful experimentation with alcohol and drugs…the best answer is “it depends.” What kind of drugs, how much, etc. Normally if it is MJ, and at least 12 months and they disclose it, it is not an issue. Same with seeing a counselor for mental health issues if it is routine counseling, but again…it depends. If they have fantasies about overthrowing the government…that may be a tough hill to overcome. If it was due to concern they weren’t handling alcohol in the manner it should and wanted to learn how to handle it…that may be a positive. Honesty is the key. And understanding that non legal drug use can prevent them from clearing, as it may mean they don’t follow rules. Classified material has rules…if you demonstrate you ignore rules…there is risk to the government. We all have risk, but if it is higher than others the government must weigh that risk against need to have you in that position.