Staff Perspective: Putting on the Uniform

Staff Perspective: Putting on the Uniform

Lisa French, Psy.D.

Last April, I blogged about recommending military service to others. I discussed the many conversations I have had with teenagers and young adults who have had questions about joining the military. Some discussions have been more general in nature (e.g., serving on active duty) and others were more focused on students interested in a career as a military psychologist. I believe it is helpful to hear first-hand from those who have served on active duty to hear about what military service has to offer as well as some of the more challenging aspects.

When I was in graduate school and thinking about psychology internship opportunities, I was lucky to have a supervisor and mentor at my graduate program who had recently separated from the Air Force after completing her initial active duty obligation. To be honest, I am not sure if I would have joined if it were not for her. She was very open to sharing the benefits of serving as well as discussing openly and honestly some of the more challenging aspect of military service. However, I also remember wondering if I was making the right decision and wishing I had more information about what it was like to serve as a uniformed provider.

I ended up applying to several military and civilian internship sites and was matched to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Medical Center. I remember showing up to Commissioned Officer Training (COT) at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama and putting on the uniform for the first time. I wasn’t sure what to expect and more than once wondered if I had made the right decision. However, after attending COT and arriving to internship, I knew I was on the right path. I had an amazing experience as an active duty psychology intern and received excellent training and supervision. The focus on brief, evidence-based treatment was the perfect match for me.

I truly enjoyed being a uniformed psychologist and treasure the time that I served. Not only do I think the Air Force paved the way to me becoming a skilled psychologist, but the focus on the individual as a whole person with dual roles as a psychologist and an officer helped shape me into the person I am today. I received incredible training opportunities related to my work as a psychologist, as well as received life lessons that could never be replicated anywhere else. My deployment to Afghanistan was actually the highlight of my time in the Air Force. At times I was pushed to points beyond my imagination, which created a confidence in my ability to succeed in the face of challenges. These experiences have helped me to grow both personally and professionally.

My time in the military ended full circle, back at an Air Force psychology internship training site. Being on staff at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center was such an amazing opportunity. I was able to give back to the Air Force and help train future generations of military psychologists. Having the opportunity to be on the other side of the training program allowed me to see even more the training opportunities available to military psychology interns. This opportunity continued for me as I transitioned to working at the Center for Deployment Psychology (CDP) where I get to continue my passion for training others and focusing on evidence-based care.

Have you ever wondered, “Should I put on the uniform? Is a career as a military psychologist right for me?” If only there was a program that could introduce interested graduate students on what it is like to serve as a uniformed provider. Oh wait, there is! The CDP is preparing to host their 4th annual, The Summer Institute: Preparing for a Career in the Armed Forces. This five-day course is designed for doctoral students in clinical or counseling psychology who are interested in joining the U.S. military and serving military patients. This course packs so much excellent information into five days. Students selected to participate will walk away with a better understanding of military culture and the deployment cycle; roles and activities unique to military psychologists; key assessments utilized in military clinics; common clinical conditions experienced by military members; how to assess and treat PTSD in military patients; and unique ethical challenges that military psychologists may be exposed to. This year’s course will also include a day-long skills-based training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for treating suicidal behavior.

Outside of the more didactic portions of the course, students will get the opportunity to tour the war memorials on the National Mall and reflect on their experience. Students will also get to hear from a panel of military psychology internship training directors, as well as interact with psychologists from different branches of the military. This year the course will be held 25-29 June 2018 on the campus of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. The link with the online application can be found at:

To be eligible, students must be enrolled in a doctoral program in clinical or counseling psychology that is APA accredited. Additionally, they must be in the second, third or fourth year of their doctoral program when they submit their application to CDP. To be considered for one of the 30 slots, individuals must be applying for or seriously considering a military internship in the U.S. Army, Navy or Air Force.

Please note that the application deadline is 22 January 2018. CDP will cover hotel costs and course fees; however, attendees will be responsible for all of their travel, transportation, and daily expenses.

I can tell you that I would have loved the opportunity to attend a course like The Summer Institute where the goal is to prepare students for being uniformed military psychologists. If you are considering putting on the uniform to serve our military populations, please consider looking into this incredible opportunity!

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.

Lisa French, Psy.D., is the Assistant Director of Military Training Programs at the Center for Deployment Psychology (CDP) at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland.