Any length of military service, from a few weeks to multiple years, can lead to mental and emotional stress for soldiers serving in areas of violence and turmoil. Some studies indicate that the majority of men and women enlisted in the military experience some form of mental or emotional disorder.
Of course, the mental toll of a military lifestyle goes beyond the enlisted individual, as their family members and loved ones also suffer from being separated from the soldier for an extended period of time. Their stress may increase as they imagine the extent of danger the soldier is exposed to on a daily basis.
About Military Psychology
The role of the military psychologist is to assist members of the military and their families and loved ones. Health professionals and military leaders understand the importance of mental health among enlisted personnel, as their time in the service can take a great psychological toll. The field expanded significantly during World War II and is expected to continue to grow in coming years.
The military needs psychologists to choose the men and women who serve throughout the various military branches and ensure they are in optimal mental and emotional health. Those who serve are thought to be more effective, productive and stable when they are mentally and emotionally healthy. After their years in the service, personnel can continue to work with military psychologists to better adjust to civilian life.
This specific branch of psychology includes many sub-disciplines such as social, industrial, experimental, organizational, and human factors engineering, and clinical and counseling psychology. Some examples of job titles in the field include Army Psychologist, Marine Psychologist and Army Mental Health Specialist.
What Military Psychologists Do
The responsibilities of military psychologists may vary according to their chosen specialty.
Many military psychologists perform mental evaluations on men and women before they enlist to ensure they can handle the emotional requirements of working in the service. Some research in the field is focused on determining which personality traits are best suited for certain military positions, and mental evaluations are often used to place recruits in appropriate roles.
Clinical and counseling military psychologists are required to diagnose and treat emotional or mental disorders in military personnel before, during or after their deployment. These may include common problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, grief or depression. The type and severity of one’s disorder will determine their course of treatment. PTSD and anxiety, for example, are commonly treated through exposure therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy.
Where Military Psychologists Work
Military psychologists may work in any location that has military personnel, from hospitals to government research facilities. Some are civilians employed by the Department of Defense; others are uniformed members of the Air Force, Navy, Army or Marines. Military psychologists may also work for small or large businesses in the private sector that support military programs, or serve as academic psychologists that focus on research in the military field. Military psychologists may also travel with the military during wartime.