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Military Psychologist

Explore the Military Psychologist career

military psychologist

Over a decade of war, brutal combat situations and multiple deployments have left troops and their families with mounting emotional pain and issues, prompting calls for more military psychologists.

The stress is palpable among those serving today. About 38% of soldiers and 31% of Marines report psychological symptoms after returning from deployments, according to Post-Deployment Health Re-Assessment data. After more than one deployment, those numbers jump higher to 40% of soldiers, and 35% of Marines.

Military psychologists help these struggling soldiers come to terms with their anxieties and stresses, equipping them with mental tools that allow them to tackle symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Service members struggling emotionally with what they've seen or experienced in combat have a number of ways to connect with these psychologists, in military clinics or veterans hospitals.

Psychology

Why do soldiers need military psychologists?

Wartime concerns like PTSD have far-reaching effects that extend beyond the battlefield. Soldiers with PTSD often report difficulties re-connecting with spouses, re-entering the workforce, and adjusting to civilian life.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, PTSD can affect soldiers in some of the following ways:

  • Flashbacks to combat or trauma
  • Bad dreams
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Feeling a strong sense of guilt, depression, or worry
  • Being startled easily
  • Having difficulty sleeping
  • Losing interest in activities that were once enjoyable

While these symptoms can have strong negative effects on the life of a soldier, there are methods to relieve them.

Depending on the scope and extent of trauma, psychologists determine whether cognitive-behavioral therapy (see CBT) or exposure therapy, or a combination of both, will lead to the best health outcomes for soldiers. If the psychologist determines that an individual's behavioral issues actually stem from issues going back to childhood, psychotherapy is also a treatment option.

Providing treatment to soldiers

Military psychologists offer soldiers a range of treatment options to best meet their needs. Typically, these come in the forms of cognitive behavioral therapies, or exposure therapies.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Where do military psychologists work?

Military psychologists deploy with troops in all branches of the military - Army, Marines, Air Force, Navy, National Guard and Reserves. Some of the locations they work at include:

  • Aircraft carriers
  • Overseas military bases
  • Combat-stress detachments
  • Forward Operating Bases
  • Military Hospitals

According to the Department of Veteran's Affairs, cognitive behavioral therapy allows soldiers to re-examine and change how they think about the traumas they went through.

Psychologists work with soldiers to identify what thoughts cause stress in their lives, and how those thoughts make their symptoms worse. For example, many soldiers develop guilt over decisions they made during combat, and are unable to dispel feelings of responsibility from their minds

These moments could occupy their thoughts during every waking hour, essentially causing them to "relive" the event again and again. Psychologists teach soldiers to accept that events happened, but that many of the choices they made were out of their control.

Exposure Therapy

Soldiers who experienced a traumatic event might avoid thinking about that event, or avoid situations that remind them of it.

Psychologists engaging soldiers with exposure therapy ask them to repeatedly talk about the event in the hopes of desensitizing them to the memory. With help from the psychologist, soldiers change how they react to stressful memories, and gain control of their thoughts surrounding trauma.

Helping military families

For family members struggling with deployment, a service member's emotional injuries, a physical disability, or the death of a parent or spouse, many options are available.

Challenges faced by non-deployed spouses

According to The National Association of School Psychologists, non-deployed spouses face almost as many challenges as deployed ones do. While their husbands or wives are away on the battlefield, they must take up new roles, and develop a new sense of purpose at home to provide for their family.

Some of these changes include:

  • New roles, like becoming the disciplinarian, paying bills, starting a new job
  • Loss of connection with the support and familiarity of the military community. Non-deployed spouses sometimes leave the base to live elsewhere during deployment.
  • Emotional challenges in response to the demands of deployment, such as coping with new independence and anxieties surrounding it.

Family members not close to military hospitals or clinics can receive help from psychologists who have either contracted with the military or accept TRICARE -- insurance for military personnel and their families -- delivering immediate treatments and interventions.

These psychologists assess family members, often coming up with solutions such as working with teachers, school counselors and parents on ways to ease a child's conduct issues or falling grades. Alternatively, the psychologist might determine that a spouse left with managing the children, a job, and all associated household responsibilities needs the services of a support network or social service agency. These types of issues are especially pertinent for National Guard and Reserve family members who do not reside on a base with other military families, who usually form strong networks and bonds.

Because deployments have continued for a number of years, the U.S. Armed Services have stepped up efforts to connect psychologists with deployed troops, service members returning home, and military families. Additionally, the Department of Defense has started to focus on prevention programs called military and family readiness programs designed to address the psychological needs of service members and their family members before and after deployment.

Becoming a military psychologist

Efforts by the military to serve its deserving members with body and mind health services has resulted in a serious shortage of psychologists in active duty. In 2007, the last year of available statistics, the American Psychological Association reported a 40% vacancy rate across all branches.

If you are an active service member, or civilian, and are considering returning to school to become a psychologist, the military often pays educational tuition, locates internships, and helps with certification. You are also guaranteed a job with benefits once you finish school.

Other organizations also need psychologists desiring to help warriors and their families. Many nonprofit organizations have formed specifically to address the shortage of military psychology professionals, offering counseling and therapy to service members and their families.

If providing psychological interventions, prevention, and therapies to either active duty service members, veterans or their families interests you, request information from schools offering psychology degree programs. Make sure the program you enroll in has been accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). Enrollment officers at the schools will tell you if their program is accredited or not.

Psychology Schools & Colleges
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5 Programs in
Online
  • 95% alumni satisfaction rate.
  • Currently holds more than 500 professional alliances, including 19 of the top Fortune 100 companies.
  • Courses are taught by expert faculty, with 86% of professors possessing a doctoral degree.
  • Offers credit for prior experience and learning, as well as scholarships, accelerated programs, and several other ways to help reduce tuition costs.
  • Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA).
Show more [+]
  • 95% alumni satisfaction rate.
  • Currently holds more than 500 professional alliances, including 19 of the top Fortune 100 companies.
  • Courses are taught by expert faculty, with 86% of professors possessing a doctoral degree.
  • Offers credit for prior experience and learning, as well as scholarships, accelerated programs, and several other ways to help reduce tuition costs.
  • Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA).
Show more [+]
  • Online Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
1 Programs in
Online
  • Its Fast Track program enables qualified students to save up to 30% on tuition and graduate up to 30% faster.
  • Its online MBA program was named by the International Graduate Forum as a top 10 Online MBA Program in 2012.
  • Listed as a military friendly school by G.I. Jobs magazine in 2014.
  • Lets students watch, view, read, or hear content through its program, My Unique Student Experience (M.U.S.E.).
  • Has additional campus locations near military bases in Colorado Springs and Denver.
Show more [+]
  • Its Fast Track program enables qualified students to save up to 30% on tuition and graduate up to 30% faster.
  • Its online MBA program was named by the International Graduate Forum as a top 10 Online MBA Program in 2012.
  • Listed as a military friendly school by G.I. Jobs magazine in 2014.
  • Lets students watch, view, read, or hear content through its program, My Unique Student Experience (M.U.S.E.).
  • Has additional campus locations near military bases in Colorado Springs and Denver.
Show more [+]
  • Good for Working Adults
  • Online Programs
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
2 Programs in
Online
  • Ranked among the 2015 Best Regional Universities in the West by U.S. News & World Report.
  • 94% of students in the 2014-2015 academic year received some form of financial aid.
  • Student to faculty ratio is 13:1, with an average class size of 15.
  • 104 full-time faculty members, and more than 71% of them hold the highest degree in their field.
  • Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Show more [+]
  • Ranked among the 2015 Best Regional Universities in the West by U.S. News & World Report.
  • 94% of students in the 2014-2015 academic year received some form of financial aid.
  • Student to faculty ratio is 13:1, with an average class size of 15.
  • 104 full-time faculty members, and more than 71% of them hold the highest degree in their field.
  • Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Show more [+]
  • Online Programs
5 Programs in
Campus
  • Designated as a 2015 Military Friendly® School by Victory Media, publishers of G.I. Jobs®.
  • Each program is designed to instill the knowledge, ethical values, and interpersonal skills of professional practice and to foster values of social responsibility.
  • Offers several flexible learning options, including a blended format that combines campus and online learning.
  • Several scholarship opportunities are available for students who qualify.
  • Features a competency-based MBA program that allows students to test out of subjects based on prior professional experience.
Show more [+]
  • Designated as a 2015 Military Friendly® School by Victory Media, publishers of G.I. Jobs®.
  • Each program is designed to instill the knowledge, ethical values, and interpersonal skills of professional practice and to foster values of social responsibility.
  • Offers several flexible learning options, including a blended format that combines campus and online learning.
  • Several scholarship opportunities are available for students who qualify.
  • Features a competency-based MBA program that allows students to test out of subjects based on prior professional experience.
Show more [+]
  • Good for Working Adults
  • Online Programs
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
2 Programs in
Campus
  • Has three campuses in Western New York and online programs.
  • Provides an academic support center, where students can get extra help, study for a test, work on a class assignment, or enhance basic academic and study skills.
  • Has a student-faculty ratio of 14:1, and 46.9% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
  • Offers active military members a discounted tuition rate for undergraduate programs through its SAGE program.
     
Show more [+]
  • Has three campuses in Western New York and online programs.
  • Provides an academic support center, where students can get extra help, study for a test, work on a class assignment, or enhance basic academic and study skills.
  • Has a student-faculty ratio of 14:1, and 46.9% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
  • Offers active military members a discounted tuition rate for undergraduate programs through its SAGE program.
     
Show more [+]
5 Programs in
Campus
  •  Ranked one of the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report.
  •  Offers a no-obligation, 3-week trial period where students may determine if the university is right for them before they commit to it.
  •  Strives to be a student’s partner in lifelong learning; committed to helping them achieve their goals.
  •  Serves students of all ages, from first-graders learning to read to professionals seeking postgraduate training.
  •  Provides career-oriented diploma through master’s programs in fields such as healthcare, business, legal and paralegal services, information technology, criminal justice and design.
Show more [+]
  •  Ranked one of the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report.
  •  Offers a no-obligation, 3-week trial period where students may determine if the university is right for them before they commit to it.
  •  Strives to be a student’s partner in lifelong learning; committed to helping them achieve their goals.
  •  Serves students of all ages, from first-graders learning to read to professionals seeking postgraduate training.
  •  Provides career-oriented diploma through master’s programs in fields such as healthcare, business, legal and paralegal services, information technology, criminal justice and design.
Show more [+]
5 Programs in
Campus
  • Designated a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media for the 4th consecutive year.
  • Listed on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in 2013, for the sixth consecutive year.
  • Links students to hundreds of training opportunities ( beyond their traditional internships and practicum) at their many “partner agencies” in each of their local communities. 
  • Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
Show more [+]
  • Designated a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media for the 4th consecutive year.
  • Listed on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in 2013, for the sixth consecutive year.
  • Links students to hundreds of training opportunities ( beyond their traditional internships and practicum) at their many “partner agencies” in each of their local communities. 
  • Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
Show more [+]
  • Good for Working Adults
  • Online Programs
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
1 Programs in
Online
  • Has students attend one four-week class at a time and take their final exam before moving on to their next class.
  • Offers 24/7 online tech support, with a typical response time of 4 hours or less.
  • Has online help centers that offer assistance with writing, statistics, medical assisting, and more.
  • Provides job placement assistance to all its students and alumni.
  • Researches trends for growing fields to tailor a more effective curriculum.
Show more [+]
  • Has students attend one four-week class at a time and take their final exam before moving on to their next class.
  • Offers 24/7 online tech support, with a typical response time of 4 hours or less.
  • Has online help centers that offer assistance with writing, statistics, medical assisting, and more.
  • Provides job placement assistance to all its students and alumni.
  • Researches trends for growing fields to tailor a more effective curriculum.
Show more [+]
  • Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Online Programs
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
3 Programs in
Online
  • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
  • Ranked among the Best Online MBA Programs by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
  • Founded in 1890, it has a campus in Waterbury, CT and offers online degree program in eight-week modules, six times a year.
  • About 800 students are enrolled at the main campus, and about half of them commute.
  • Online courses make it possible for students to earn a bachelor’s degree in as little as 18 months and a master’s degree in 14-24 months.
Show more [+]
  • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
  • Ranked among the Best Online MBA Programs by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
  • Founded in 1890, it has a campus in Waterbury, CT and offers online degree program in eight-week modules, six times a year.
  • About 800 students are enrolled at the main campus, and about half of them commute.
  • Online courses make it possible for students to earn a bachelor’s degree in as little as 18 months and a master’s degree in 14-24 months.
Show more [+]
  • Good for Working Adults
  • Online Programs
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
5 Programs in
Campus
  • Designated a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media.
  • Received the 2013 Making a Difference for Students Award from Quality Matters.
  • Offers a free student app for smartphones and tablets, helping students keep up to date.
  • Has a Golden Key International Honour Society and SALUTE Veterans Honor Society.
  • Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).
Show more [+]
  • Designated a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media.
  • Received the 2013 Making a Difference for Students Award from Quality Matters.
  • Offers a free student app for smartphones and tablets, helping students keep up to date.
  • Has a Golden Key International Honour Society and SALUTE Veterans Honor Society.
  • Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).
Show more [+]
  • Good for Working Adults
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid