Security Clearance Process

Mental Health Counseling and Security Clearances

With the ever-increasing number of veterans returning from multiple tours of duty in hostile fire zones who are diagnosed with some level of post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD), Question #21 on the SF-86 scares a lot of security clearance applicants. This fear stems from the belief that admitting to getting professional counseling or help for an emotional or psychological health concern will result in a clearance denial. In all actuality, seeking help for a problem, whether it be for PTSD, alcohol or substance abuse, or other types of disorders shows that you recognize there is a problem and that help is needed to cope with or resolve it. During a background investigation a health care professional can corroborate that the condition would not impact your ability to handle and protect classified information, and may also provide a future favorable prognosis. In the eyes of an adjudicator this is mitigation in your favor and if there are no other issues related to the concern then eligibility for a clearance is granted.

Honesty is the best policy when answering this question and you should read the exceptions to having to answer “yes” carefully. If you do respond with a “yes” answer, ensure you provide the specific dates and up to date care provider contact information, as this will be followed up on in the investigation. Although PTSD is not limited to only those serving in the military, a very good resource for information on this subject is the Real Warrior Campaign website developed by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.


  1. I would not worry too much. You disclosed the information. You have been on meds and have been taking meds, so you obviously are aware of your history and need for meds. That will be a good point for you – it would be worse if you had a psych history and didn’t seek help or take meds. I have a history of depression and are on meds, and received my TS clearance. Good luck.

Comment Archive

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    This is my story!
    I had a problem with my wife. I feel that she was cheating on me and I brought the problem to a psychiatrist doctor to find an advice. During the discussion, I was out of angry and saying something that I did not mean to ” She is cheating on me and I feel so bad about it, it would make me kill myself”. After that, the doctor did not let me go and called the ambulance and submitted me to the hospital for evaluation. No matter what I try to convince that I was saying things when I was angry, and I did not mean it, they keep me in the hospital for one week for evaluation. I have to follow the hospital treatments otherwise they would not let me go to work. I ended up diagnosed with bipolar disorder and have to follow up with the treatment for 8 months follow a outpatient because it is the requirements in order for me go back to work. I just got a new job with a public trust clearance with a new company. I stopped the treatment because the current company doesn’t have the previous provider.
    I believe that the bipolar disorder was diagnosed by mistake, and I’m seeking a second opinion right now to find an solution for me.
    These are my questions:
    1) The incident was not involve court order or hurting anyone. Should I still have to list the information on the SF86?
    2) If the new doctor that I discuss for the second opinion turn out that I do not have bipolar should I list it on the SF86?
    3) The facts that I was hospitalized and diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but I’m compliance with the treatments seriously, can I still able to get a Secret or Top Secret Clearance?
    I was so stupid that I say thing that I did not mean to because I do not know that would lead me to a serious problem even in a private room with my doctor, and the problem now could end my career in Cyber Security because I might not able to get a security clearance.
    Please advice,
    I’m appreciate your time as always!

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    @Kenny Nguyen, yes, you are required to list and mental health counseling not related to marital counseling, PTSD, or grief. As far as getting a clearance, a medical professional will have to provide a favorable prognosis based on their diagnosis and your favorable treatment.

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    Hi I have a question and hope someone is around who can answer it.

    I have had problems with clinical depression and have been on and off medication for periods stretching back to 1991. I have been consistently on medication and seeing psychiatrists consistently since September 2014.

    It’s the plural form that noun, “psychiatristS” that perplexes me. I have seen 3 psychiatrists in this time.

    The first one, I will call this one “Dr. D”, works for the state (my home state, not the federal government). I saw her a few times and she provided me with a prescription for the antidepressant Celexa. Her office doesn’t do long term care on an outpatient basis. I saw her a few times until I could get an appointment with a psychiatrist at a more long term practice.

    Around, I think, November of 2014 I started going to a long term practice. I was seen by “Dr. K”. I saw her every few months for a quick medication checkup until about October 2015. This is where it gets tricky.

    In December 2015 I moved to Virginia for 4 months. I saw a doctor there exactly once for a medication refill. We’ll call this one “Dr. B”.

    Then I moved back to my home state in April 2016. I saw Dr. D once more for a one month supply of my medication. Again, since Dr. D’s office does not do long term outpatient care, I went to a different practice a month later. However, here I am seen not by a psychiatrist, but a nurse practitioner.

    A further wrinkle is that I could not go back to Dr. K because in February 2016, her practice closed down. That’s why I am seeing the nurse practitioner (who’s name I forget).

    I listed Dr. K on my SF-86 form, but as I mentioned the practice was closed down and I didn’t have a new address. I’m not sure where she is now. I provided the old address, and in the “additional comments” section, I noted that the practice was closed and suggested the investigator contact Dr. D., who is still at her practice.

    I also listed Dr. D as a separate entry.

    Okay those are the details, let me get to the questions.

    MY FIRST QUESTION: Will this history of treatment for depression impact me getting an INTERIM Secret Clearance?

    MY SECOND QUESTION: So will it matter that they can’t get in contact with Dr. K? Dr. K saw me the most, though Dr. D is the most recent psychiatrist I have seen.

    Also, as I mentioned, these issues with depression stretch all the way back 25 years. I know the OPM probably doesn’t want the entire 25 year history, but there were many doctors over those years and many gaps. But I can’t remember much further past September 2014. I know that before then I had been off medications for several years, but I have no clue how many.

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    What happens when you have both mental health counselors that are under the exempted and the non exempted statuses? Once you put “yes” to question 21 reinvestigation, does that mean each counselor regardless of exempted or not has to be listed?