Keesler counselors help families overcome under stress

  • Published
  • By Danielle Nichols
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs

The Families OverComing Under Stress, better known as FOCUS, is a program aimed at providing resiliency training for military couples and families. 

Whether a couple or family is dealing with lifestyle transitions, deployments or relationship difficulties, FOCUS facilitators strive to teach skills to families that will help their communication flow and create a better understanding of one another, especially children.

Kim Perez, FOCUS site director and licensed professional counselor, said their goal is to work with each individual so that they can express themselves in a more conducive way.

“We all handle situations differently as individuals, and it really helps to have a common communication,” Perez said.

“Working with kids can be a little more challenging,” Perez said. “We work with kiddos as young as 3, helping families find a more appropriate way to communicate with their little ones.”

Working with children on sensitive topics like a deployment or divorce can be difficult she noted.

Couples without kids can also use to the program to build better communication skills and positively impact their relationship, even if there are no immediate stressors such as deployments or temporary duty assignments.

Perez said the difference between their program and mental health is that mental health provides actual counseling.

“We’re not counseling at all. We’re not diagnosing anyone, we’re just introducing skills,” Perez said.

The program consists of roughly five to eight meetings with each meeting introducing a new skill to the family or couple. The counselors are flexible to work with dates and times that fit the family’s needs.

Deborah Brewster, a licensed master social worker, is a resilience trainer at FOCUS and has helped numerous families since coming to Keesler in September. 

“We want to give families tools to open that line of communication. We help them be proactive and prepared in case bad situations do arise,” Brewster said.

FOCUS hopes to see families and couples from across the base, not just students or permanent party.

“We really see quite a mix of folks, and we’re open to all the branches of the military including Coast Guard,” Brewster said.

Until a month ago, Keesler was the only Air Force base with a FOCUS program; however, it is now offered at MacDill AFB, Flordia, and Cannon AFB, New Mexico.

The program in not mandatory and details of the session remain confidential.

For more information about the FOCUS program, visit To set up an appointment, call Perez and Brewster at (228) 377-3453 or via email at