When we think of environments in which to seek or practice psychotherapy, the military may not be the first thing that springs to mind. Yet today’s military requires therapeutic support for active service members as much as any other business or industry, if not more. Plus, the military can be an exciting and rewarding place to gain experience as a clinician.
With the stress faced on a daily basis by soldiers and support personnel, the branches of the U.S. military employ clinicians to help personnel deal with issues that affect health and performance. If you are interested in gaining work experience in an environment where you can provide tangible and important benefits to those dealing with issues beyond what may be found in the civilian sector, a career in military psychology may be an excellent fit.
Military psychology is a clinical specialization that focuses on active military personnel and their families. With some studies suggesting that a majority of enlisted personnel suffer from some type of emotional disorder, dedicated professionals become crucial to helping personnel maintain physical and mental health. Depression and stress affect both civilians and those in the military, yet in some cases, the nature of military life may exacerbate these issues beyond what civilians normally experience. Military personnel are also more likely to experience issues of loss, crisis management and relationship tension. Through work in military hospitals and clinics in the United States and abroad, military psychologists provide the vital support necessary to help affected personnel deal with these emotional issues.
It is not just active service members who report problems. Military families often experience anxiety about the dangers of military service and the need to spend long periods separated from loved ones. While in these cases families can certainly seek the services of a civilian clinician, it may be particularly helpful to work with psychologists who specialize in these types of issues. Through individual or group therapy, military psychologists help couples and families deal with the anxieties inherent to military life.
Beyond the challenging and rewarding nature of work as a military psychologist, the military also offers benefits for recent doctoral graduates unmatched in the civilian sector. The U.S. Navy, for example, offers graduate school loan repayment through its Navy Health Professions Loan Repayment Program (HPLRP). With the HPLRP, the Navy grants eligible servicemembers contributions of up to $80,000 towards graduate school loans over a two-year period. The Navy also pays for board certification for clinical psychologists. Doctoral programs and licensure in clinical psychology can constitute a significant expense, and positions in the military can help lessen some of the costs.
Life as a military psychologist may not be appropriate for every aspiring clinician. Military psychologists are employed as active service members and may be required to serve in difficult overseas environments away from their own loved ones. For those with an interest in national service, however, the military can offer tangible benefits otherwise unattainable in civilian life.
With competitive financial packages to aid loan repayment for clinical education and the opportunity to work with people that have issues beyond what may be encountered with civilians, the military offers an exciting and dynamic venue from which to gain experience as a psychologist.