I want to take a moment to discuss one of the biggest joys of being a military psychologist, the clients. To do this, I will answer a question I’m periodically asked:
What do you like about working with military members?
- They are exceptional: To qualify for military service, an individual must meet extensive medical and physical requirements, including height and weight measurements, hearing and vision requirements and aptitude requirements, all determined through multiple examinations. These entrance requirements disqualify many citizens from service in the military and result in an exceptionally healthly population upon entrance. In addition, those who do qualify have been run through a gauntlet of testing that far exceeds what most people will ever endure as part of a job interview/procurement process. Once they have been deemed qualified for service, they must leave their family, friends, and community behind to begin the grueling training required for service to their country. This takes courage, commitment, and requires sacrifices that many citizens are not willing to make. I admire that in all of my military clients.
- They are diverse: Service members represent a cross-section of American cultures and ethnicity. Serving as a military behavioral health provider is a wonderful opportunity to meet and work with people from many different backgrounds and cultures. In addition, the military members represent many different political beliefs. What unites them is a willingness to serve their country.
- They are motivated: Service members are a hard-working group of people willing to get up long before sunrise and work until the job is completed. They are also motivated to stay healthy. That does not mean that service members always make wise choices, or have the perfect plan for health, but as an overall group there is an emphasis on health, both physical and psychological.
- They present a full spectrum of psychological problems while still maintaining a full time job: This is one of the most amazing parts of working with the active duty military. These individuals may be struggling with a wide range of behavioral health problems, but they continue to get out of bed each day, dress in their uniforms, and carry out their job duties when many other people may choose to call in sick, quit their jobs, or give up in other ways. This population does not shy from responsibility. They are willing to bear the burden of defending their country and sacrificing their own safety to ensure the freedom of the nation.
- They know how to make connections with others: Connection and maintaining social connections is a powerful tool for mental health. Although a patient may be struggling with connectedness, as a generalization military members know now to quickly make friends and deep connections. When you move every two or three years, and you deploy, and our coworkers come and go due to military service, you quickly learn that you don’t have the luxury of building slow friendships or extending friendship slowly to new coworkers. Knowing that either your patient, or the people they work with likely have the skills to make new connections is a fantastic boost to therapy.
If you or someone you know is considering a military Clinical Psychology Internship and would like to learn more about military psychology, consider applying for one of the CDP’s Pathway to Military Internships programs, either The Summer Institute or The Winter Institute. You can learn more on our website: https://deploymentpsych.org/pathways-to-military-internships
The opinions in CDP Staff Perspective blogs are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Science or the Department of Defense.
Libby Parins, Psy.D., is the Chief of Staff at the Center for Deployment Psychology (CDP). Dr. Parins has worked at CDP since 2007, serving in many different capacities including as a faculty member on APA-accredited psychology internship programs, and as a project developer and trainer in military and civilian programs. She began her professional career as a Naval Officer where she served in San Diego, California and Bremerton, Washington as a psychologist