Derrick T. Dortch, Diversa Group president

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Derrick T. Dortch, president of the Diversa Group, is a career counselor who specializes in government job searches and military transition. This is adapted from a recent chat at

Baltimore: What kinds of mental health services affect security clearances? The SF86 form explicitly exempts marital and grief counseling, but I've been unable to find information on how other counseling services are considered during adjudication. I would expect an application listing paranoid schizophrenia to raise eyebrows, but what about lesser issues like anxiety or depression? Would there be any difference in how these mental-health services might affect clearance upgrades and reevaluations?

Derrick Dortch: Getting help by seeing a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist is never a bad thing. If you need the help then you should get it, and do not be ashamed or afraid to do so. I have seen how people have been helped and had their lives changed for the better.

With that said, the honest truth is that seeing a mental health services provider will be considered a red flag warranting further attention by a background investigator. It will be taken seriously into consideration by an adjudicator to determine your suitability for a clearance. You can find more information about this at

I recommend that you get some pre-security clearance counseling/consulting. Some law firms that deal with these matters do this, as does my firm. You can confidentially discuss any areas of concern and get your questions answered. You can discuss how you should handle the situation and how you should complete the form.

Many times it's how you say something -- or what you fail to say -- that can hurt you.

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