Military psychologists specialize in diagnosing and treating military personnel. They work with members of the military assigned to support, technical, and combat duties. Military psychologists can be civilians, enlisted personnel, or research psychologists specializing in issues affecting the military. Additionally, they assist family members of soldiers struggling with emotional or mental health disorders.
This branch of psychology is more diverse than ever, so military psychologists must possess many skills and unique knowledge. For example, the military employs psychologists to assist commanders develop training programs for Navy SEALS and other elite soldiers known as Survival, Escape, Resistance and Evasion (SERE) training. Other psychologists specialize in personality and aptitude assessment, assisting soldiers stationed in deployment centers, and conducting marriage and relationship counseling.
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What Do They Generally Do?
Military psychologists conduct research, provide counseling, and administer clinical treatments.
Military psychologists employed by the Navy or Army usually offer clinical services, rather than conduct research. Military psychologists specializing in research usually attempt to better understand how personality traits indicate attitudes toward safety, what types of personalities best suit specific military occupation specialties, and how to more effectively treat post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Clinical military psychologists administer psychological assessments and psychotherapy, conduct forensic analysis, develop training programs, and teach. Each military branch has psychologists assigned to work with its enlisted personnel.
Military psychologists also interview officers to determine whether they’re capable of fulfilling their assigned duties. They also organize and manage programs designed for service members and their families struggling to cope with military-related problems.
A Diverse Job Profile
Military psychologists spend more time attempting to prevent, rather than treat problems. They also try to treat problems early before they become difficult to manage. Military psychologists recommend stress management techniques and healthy behaviors to service members they assist.
Military psychologists work in various environments, including veterans’ hospitals, Navy ships, deployment centers, and base hospitals. Many are embedded with soldiers in combat zones, including Special Forces operatives and Marine Corp units.
Some military psychologists are employed as instructors, training specialists, and supervisors. Many work with soldiers preparing to deploy to warzones, struggling with grief after a comrade is killed in combat, and suffering with PTSD.
Some military psychologists specialize in aviation psychology. These specialists are employed by the Air Force to assist in pilot training and selection, recommend pilots for specific missions, and work with flight crew members to eliminate potentially deadly mistakes.
A typical course of education for a military psychologists starts with earning a bachelor’s degree in general psychology, counseling psychology, clinical psychology, or another social services major. From there, most military psychologists earn either a master’s or a doctorate degree (PhD or PsyD) in psychology. Students can pursue a master’s or doctorate degree from a traditional or online college or university, or an online military college or university. If a student chooses to attend a military college or university, the United States military will typically pay for living and education expenses. Once a master’s or doctorate degree is earned, students are required to complete a certain amount of internship hours prior to being able to be a fully practicing military psychologist.
The following are other specialties within military psychology:
- Air Force Psychologist
- Army Mental Health Specialist
- Army Psychologist
- Military Chaplain
- Air Force Chaplain
- Army Chaplain
- Navy Chaplain
- Military Counselor
- Military Family Counseling
- Military Psychologist
- Navy Psychologist
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