Army Counseling Examples – Event, Performance, Growth

In the Army of the United States, team and unit leaders nurture subordinates’ professional development and growth through structured communication, such as monthly counseling sessions. These sessions ensure that soldiers are meeting the standards and expectations of their units so as to elevate their performance within their ranks. Counseling is a deliberate practice of the US military’s personnel management system. It aims to mold an individual’s career and enhance the collective strength of the entire unit.

Additionally, it illustrates the Army’s commitment to supporting and nurturing the growth of its personnel so as to meet the demands of their roles and progressively outgrow them. Counseling sessions can be done for non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and officers.  

This article will discuss monthly counseling in the Army, the types of sessions, and how they can be utilized to foster holistic growth. You will then learn the key factors to consider in order to conduct an objective counseling session with well-defined goals that can be tracked to ensure the plan is realized. Lastly, you will learn the best practices for creating a continuous improvement culture that maximizes the team’s potential. 

What is an Army Monthly Counseling? 

Counseling is a regular practice and display of leadership responsibilities in the U.S. Army, where you, as the supervisor, meet with your subordinates monthly. These engagements offer a platform for open communication where you can provide valuable guidance and mentorship to the subordinates to promote their professional development. During these sessions, you can discuss a wide range of topics. These include performance feedback, end goals, professional development, conduct, and behavior issues.

You can utilize these engagements to address any challenges or concerns that you have identified and instill new skills they may be lacking. Counseling is used to support soldiers in fulfilling military standards while fostering continuous improvement and accountability. Through counseling, the soldiers should be able to navigate obstacles and enhance their military capabilities. As a result, you should align your guidance with the soldier’s goals to increase the chances of success.

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    Army Monthly Counseling Examples 

    Monthly counseling can be used as an intervention at different points in the soldier’s career or role in the Army. It can be used as a response to singular and specific issues or general and cumulative concerns.

    Below are examples of different types of counseling you can provide to your subordinates: 

    Event counseling

    Event counseling typically focuses on a specific incident, event, or situation. It can be used to address and document actions related to a particular event, such as a soldier’s involvement in a disciplinary incident, exemplary behavior, or a significant achievement. It may involve discussing the details of the event (clarifications) and its impact, offering feedback, and any corrective actions or recommendations needed. This type of counseling is typically immediate and can be held before events such as an appearance before the promotion committee, disciplinary board, or training sessions.

    It can also be done after the fact, for example, after a mission, personal issue, good conduct, excellent or poor performance. During the session, you should discuss the event’s impact and lessons learned. Then, you should provide feedback and guidance and collaborate with the subordinate to develop the appropriate action plan for improvement where necessary.  

    Performance counseling

    Performance counseling is centered around the soldier’s overall job performance. It requires you to review their performance over a specific period to identify accomplishments, strengths, weaknesses, areas of excellence, and performance gaps in their duties and responsibilities.

    Then, you can provide constructive feedback on how well the soldier is meeting their performance objectives and how they can improve, which may include setting goals for future assessments. The end goals should be measurable to simplify future reviews. Also, you should collaborate with the soldiers to set the performance goals.   

    Professional growth counseling

    Professional growth counseling focuses on the soldier’s long-term career development and growth. It includes discussions about career goals, potential career paths within the military, training, and education opportunities. It also involves formulating development plans/strategies for advancing in rank and responsibility.

    In the plan, you can define skills, qualifications, training, courses, assignments, and mentorship opportunities available to the subordinate to maximize their potential within the military. The overall goal of professional growth counseling is to align the soldier’s career goals with their personal aspirations. 

    Fostering Professional Development of Soldiers and NCOs Through Counseling 

    Regular or scheduled counseling provides an opportunity for you to offer constructive feedback on a soldier’s or NCO’s performance and conduct. It also allows you to formulate action plans based on the soldier’s potential career paths, promotion opportunities, requirements, and goals for advancement. Honest and timely feedback allows individuals to understand their strengths and shortcomings. It also ensures that individuals are well-prepared for future roles and responsibilities, facilitating their growth and learning. 

    Monthly counseling is also used to recognize and celebrate soldiers’ achievements and good performance or conduct. It also instills a developmental mindset and encourages the soldiers to seek growth opportunities proactively.

    Additionally, it helps them view their military career as a continuous improvement journey. This encourages soldiers and NCOs to participate in their self-improvement journey proactively. This way, they are able to realize their full potential and strengthen their entire unit. 

    Key Factors to Consider in an Army Monthly Counseling Session 

    There are key factors you should incorporate into your monthly counseling sessions in the Army. They help ensure that each session is productive, constructive, and supportive of the soldier’s professional development and growth.

    They include:


    Before the counseling session, you must prepare thoroughly. This includes reviewing the soldier’s performance, training, and conduct records and gathering relevant information from notes of previous counseling sessions. For example, if a soldier has recently completed a training course, you should review the course evaluation results and any recommendations issued. Review these documents to understand the soldier’s background. Then, use the collected information to give well-informed feedback and formulate targeted action plans. 

    Establish a positive atmosphere

    Creating a positive and open atmosphere is essential for effective counseling. You should begin the monthly session with a genuine, respectful, empathic, and approachable demeanor. This encourages the soldier to feel comfortable discussing both positive and negative aspects of their career. For example, you can start the counseling session with a simple greeting and acknowledge the soldier’s hard work and dedication to the team and Army, creating a positive tone for the discussion. This makes them feel valued and understood. 

    Set objectives

    This involves outlining what needs to be discussed, such as performance goals, behavior improvement, or career development. The objectives of the sessions should be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. For example, suppose the objective is to discuss career advancement. In that case, you inform the soldier of the promotion requirements, such as service hours, tests, training, and accolades needed to achieve the next rank. This information ensures that you and the soldier clearly understand what needs to be accomplished during the season.   

    Performance review

    Record your assessment data using the DA Form 4856 (Counseling Form) or any other equivalent document. Evaluate the soldier’s performance based on established criteria/metrics. Document both the positives and negatives observed to assess their accomplishments and areas for improvement.

    Also, use concrete examples to illustrate points. For instance, during a performance review, you might praise the soldier for their leadership during a recent field exercise and then discuss areas where they can improve, such as time management.

    Developmental counseling

    Discuss the soldier’s developmental needs and opportunities for growth. This can include setting career goals and individual developmental plans (IDPs) and recommending training courses, leadership roles, or additional responsibilities. For example, if a soldier expresses an interest in becoming a squad leader, you can provide guidance on the leadership qualities they should develop and suggest leadership training programs.

    Appearance and physical fitness

    Address appearance and physical fitness standards that the soldier is expected to meet as per the military standards. This is because soldiers in the US Army are required to be fit and capable. You can suggest how they can improve themselves by recommending training programs and fitness resources that address areas the soldier needs to improve. For example, if a soldier struggles with meeting physical fitness requirements, you should collaboratively formulate a fitness improvement plan and recommend regular physical training sessions.

    Accountability and responsibility

    Reinforce the importance of accountability and responsibility by emphasizing the soldier’s individual and collective roles and responsibilities. Discuss how the soldier’s actions and decisions impact the team and the mission. For example, when a soldier has registered cases of lateness for duty, you should emphasize the importance of punctuality and the negative impact of tardiness on the unit’s readiness.

    Personal issues

    Personal issues will typically impact a soldier’s performance and conduct. Therefore, it is vital to allow them to share any personal issues that may be affecting their performance or well-being during the counseling session. Discuss such issues with sensitivity and offer support and guidance as needed while maintaining confidentiality when appropriate. Also, suggest interventions to help them overcome these issues. For example, when a soldier mentions experiencing stress due to personal matters, you can provide information about available counseling services and resources.

    Future goals

    Discuss the soldier’s immediate career aspirations and future goals within the military. Help them identify the steps and opportunities needed to achieve those end goals. For example, you can outline a senior NCO’s career progression path, including required courses and leadership roles, if a soldier expresses their desire to become one. 

    Acknowledge the soldier’s input

    During the monthly counseling session, you should actively listen to the soldier’s input on different aspects of the topics to be discussed. Acknowledge their perspective and incorporate their ideas into the discussion when appropriate. . Also, include them when setting goals and formulating developmental plans to make them feel heard and respected and create a sense of ownership and commitment in the soldier. For example, when the soldier provides feedback on improving the unit’s training program, you should express appreciation for their input and discuss how to implement their suggestions.

    Best Practices for Conducting an Army Monthly Counseling Session 

    Conducting effective monthly counseling sessions in the Army requires adhering to best practices that facilitate productive communication and support the professional development of soldiers.

    Here are several tips you can adopt to make the sessions impactful:

    Set clear end goals

    Start each session by clearly defining the soldier’s objectives in the upcoming month in order to provide direction on what should be prioritized. These objectives should be measurable to enable tracking progress. Collaborate with the soldier when setting these objectives to ensure they align with the soldier’s career and personal development, as well as the overall mission and objectives of the military unit.

    Formulate a development plan

    Based on the discussion and identified goals, formulate a development plan. This plan should outline specific actions, tasks, or training that the soldier needs to undertake to achieve the set objectives. This plan should consist of specific actions, timelines, and milestones.

    Customize the development plan to align with the soldier’s strengths, weaknesses, career opportunities, and aspirations. Ensure that it is realistic and achievable within the given time frame. Ensure the soldier actively participates throughout every step to cultivate a sense of ownership over the plan.

    Give feedback

    Provide honest, timely, and constructive feedback on the soldier’s performance, conduct, progress, and areas for improvement. Highlight both strengths and areas needing improvement, using specific examples to illustrate your point. Compliment the individual wherever they deserve in order to boost their morale and motivation.

    Also, encourage the soldier to share their perspective and concerns. Listen actively by making the session a two-way communication or open dialogue interaction. Then, ensure that your feedback focuses on ways the soldier can improve rather than their shortcomings.

    Document the session’s outcomes

    Document the discussion thoroughly, including the objectives, action plans, feedback provided, and any commitments you and the soldier made. Maintain a record of the monthly counseling sessions for future reference, including follow-up engagements. This documentation is valuable for performance evaluations, promotions, and tracking of progress.

    Final Thoughts 

    In the United States, monthly counseling sessions in the Army form a pivotal practice that fosters professional development and growth among soldiers. These structured engagements serve as a vital means of communication, mentorship, and guidance, allowing you to guide your subordinates’ career paths, address issues, and maintain military discipline and standards.

    These counseling engagements can cover a wide range of areas, including job performance, career advancement, and personal growth. Furthermore, there are various types of counseling, such as event, performance, and professional growth counseling, that you can use to support the soldiers’ holistic development effectively. Lastly, to be more effective, you should conduct the sessions as two-way communication and document them for reference.

    About This Article

    Naomi Scupham
    Authored by:
    Content Creator | Digital Engagement Expert
    Boasting a diversified career that spans more than nine years, Naomi Scupham has become a trusted authority in the realms of marketing and communications. A graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, Naomi has consistently demonstrated her knack for crafting compelling digital content that engages and resonates with varied audiences. Her skills extend to building robust relationships within the media landscape, as well as the meticulous planning and execution of integrated communication campaigns.

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