Military PsychologistThe wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and those taking place in other parts of the world have emotionally impacted many returning veterans and their families. As a result, military psychologists are always needed assist veterans and their families cope with the emotional scars and trauma created by war. Experienced and skilled military psychologists, and successful counseling and group therapy, make it possible for veterans to learn how to deal with emotional stresses of war and military life, and adjust to civilian life at home.
Research shows that a large percentage of military personnel returning home from warzones, who have been involved with combat, struggle with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The percentage of soldiers who suffer from PTSD is a little under 50 percent for those who have served multiple deployments.
Veterans struggling with PTSD can meet with psychologists on base, but most military psychologists have offices in military and veterans hospitals. It's not uncommon during the first couple of sessions for a military psychologist to spend most of his or her time evaluating a veteran to determine if they are demonstrating symptoms of PTSD.
If it is necessary, military psychologists can recommend exposure or cognitive-behavioral therapy to treat veterans struggling with PTSD. However, the emotional problems resulting from war for many soldiers is often compounded by previous mental health problems. If this is the case, military psychologists may recommend psychotherapy.
Family members of soldiers are also emotionally affected by their family members' long deployments and traumatic injuries. If they are struggling, family members of service members can seek treatment from psychologists at military hospitals. Because of the ongoing conflicts and stress associated with military life, other treatment programs and options are available for struggling family members. Family members not living on base, or unable to access a military hospital, can meet with civilian psychologists contracted by the military.
After a thorough evaluation, military psychologists recommend treatment solutions or refer family members of soldiers struggling with emotional problems to other professionals. Often, all family members really need is the support of others, so psychologists frequently organize support groups. Regulary attending support groups is an effective treatment option for family members of military service members since they usually reside in communities with other military families facing similar struggles.
When troops are deployed in warzones, military psychologists accompany them in what are referred to as combat stress detachments. If soldiers are struggling emotionally while in a combat zone, they can meet with a psychologist to receive emotional and psychological assistance.
In larger theaters of operations, such as Iraq, military psychologists collaborate with military commanders to identify soldiers who may be in need of psychological treatment. Soldiers complaining about homesickness or sleeping disorders to their superiors can be referred to a psychologist.
Since troops are continually being deployed overseas and de-escalation does not appear imminent, the United States Military has taken steps to accommodate and address the very real and going mental health needs of soldiers. In fact, the military is now focusing on prevention since PTSD rates can be very high for soldiers who have been deployed multiple times.
There is always demand for military psychologists. Every branch of the military is in need of qualified psychologists to meet the emotional and psychological needs of soldiers deployed overseas, veterans of combat and their families. Psychology and mental health counseling jobs within the different branches of the U.S. Military include:
Opportunities also exist for civilian psychologists who want to work with service members of the military, their families, and veterans. Numerous nonprofit groups also provide psychiatric, psychological and counseling services for service members and their families.
Education RequirementsThe educational requirements for becoming a military psychologists are similar to those for becoming any other type of practicing psychologist. The first step is to earn a bachelor's degree in psychology, or a closely related behaviorial science discipline. The second step is to earn a graduate degree (preferrably a PhD or PsyD) in psychology from an APA accredited program. Enrolled service members have the option of attending a military college or university. Individual who earn their degrees through the military are often eligible for reimbursement of tuition and other educational expenses. After earning both an undergraduate and graduate degree in psychology, candidates must also complete a specific number of residency/internship hours before they can begin practicing full-time as a military psychologist.
At non-military colleges, military psychology may be offered as a concentration within the general psychology program. Choosing a program that offers specialized training in military psychology often introduces students to specialized areas of study such as PTSD, trauma and psychological issues relating to deployment cycle – and prepares them for counseling and mental health positions within the armed forces. However, specialized training rehabilitation psychology, clinical psychology, counseling psychology and other related specialities may be just as useful for a career in military psychology.
There are also training programs and education opportunities for becoming a psychologist through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (www.psychologytraining.va.gov). The VA offers psychology internerships, doctoral programs and postdoctoral fellowships at locations across the United States.
Aspiring military psychologists should also consider memberships in the Society for Military Psychology (www.apadivisions.org/division-19/index.aspx).
Military IncentivesBecoming a psychologist through a military sponsored training program, or through a military tuition reimbursement program, can be a cost effective way to become a psychologist. It does however require a substantial commitment following graduation.
Through the U.S. Navy, enlisted personnel can take advantage of the U.S. Navy Health Professions Sholarship Program (HPSP), which pays tuition costs, living expenses ($2,000+ a month) and even a signing bonus for those studying to become clinical psychologists.
There are also Health Professions Scholarship Programs available for Army and Air Force personnel seeking to pursue a career as a psychologist.
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