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Students Learn What It Takes to Become Military Psychologists

A student in a classroom.

By Staff


More than 40 doctoral students from across the country met in Bethesda, Md., to learn what it takes to serve as a psychologist in the United States military.

Clinical and counseling psychology doctoral students gathered for the seventh annual Summer Institute: Preparing for a Psychology Career in the Military. The event was hosted by the Uniformed Services University’s Center for Deployment Psychology at the end of July, drawing a diverse group from more than 30 different academic institutions. The goal was to teach students interested in pursuing a military internship about the ins and outs of the job as well as how to become more competitive for one of the positions. 

“I wanted to go in as equipped as possible to better represent myself,” says attendee Samuel Alex. “…And I have been able to form new friendships with like-minded individuals.”

Students sit in a classroom.
Visiting doctoral students learned about what it takes to serve as a psychologist in the United States military. (Photo submitted)

Military psychologists are needed to provide care in the Armed Forces and play a vital role in sustaining the readiness of military members. Psychologists are also essential to support the mental and behavioral health needs of the nearly three million service members who were deployed in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While most service members transition well after engaging in such military operations, a significant minority experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and traumatic brain injury.

The Summer Institute began in 2015 and outside of last year due to COVID-19, the university has held the course annually, offering networking chances for students. The intensive week-long program aims to strengthen and reinforce the visiting doctoral students’ backgrounds in military behavioral health as they learn about military culture and the work of psychologists serving in uniform. Participating students got the chance to interact with psychologists from the different branches of the military, at different stages in their careers, and heard about the challenges and rewards of serving in the military.

Faculty members taught participants through panel and group discussions as well as through exercises. The students learned about everything from the opportunities for military psychologists, to the stress of deployments, from the warrior ethos to the ethical dilemmas faced by providers working with military patients, and more.

A group of students standing in a courtyard
More than 40 doctoral students from across the country attended the seventh annual Summer Institute: Preparing for Psychology Career in the Military. The
annual event was hosted by the Uniformed Services University's Center for Deployment Psychology at the end of July. (Photo submitted)

This year, students took part in a discussion on military culture and the unique responsibilities military psychologists have versus their counterparts in the civilian world. Attendees also learned about military internship programs, clinical rotations, and what betters their chances as a suitable applicant. 

To extend the opportunities provided by the Summer Institute, the University’s Center for Deployment Psychology is now offering a three-day virtual event called The Winter Institute on Jan. 10-12, 2022. For more information, visit https://deploymentpsych.org/winter-institute.