People both within the DoD and in the civilian community sometimes wonder if mental health providers become involved with military recruiting. What do they do, exactly? Does the job of recruiting really need full time mental health providers involved?
In fact, all military branches have mental health providers involved with recruiting commands to work with the organizations and assist recruiters with the high demands of their jobs. In the past, recruiting duty was considered one of the highest risk jobs for mental health issues and suicides. Mental health providers embedded with this community have assisted the organization with improving the recruiting environment and helping the DoD put forward the best people for the job.
The following interview is with LTC Ingrid Lim, Psy.D, Command Psychologist for United States Army Recruiting Command. LTC Lim gave permission for the following interview to be posted on this public domain.
Q: What is the role of mental health providers within Army recruiting?
A: The psychologists in USAREC have several roles. They serve as behavioral health consultants and as brigade psychologists. Their first role as behavioral health consultants is to use their knowledge of the operational environment and their knowledge of human behavior to assist in the accomplishment of the mission. They also serve as consultants to the commanders on organizational issues and as clinical psychologists, where they advise and assist leaders in the management and care of Soldiers with behavioral health issues.
Q: How do mental health providers specifically improve the recruiting processes?
A: The behavioral health consultants work primarily with the recruiters and their leaders. They do not work directly with applicants. This recruiting process is primarily administrative and have very detailed requirements to which recruiters must adhere. In addition, the process involves a significant amount of interpersonal interactions. The behavioral health consultants work primarily with the recruiters and their commanders to ensure their ability to perform in a high tempo and stressful environment while preserving their ability to continue to Soldier with integrity. This may involve learning how to effectively communicate in a high stress/high demand environment and maintain the teams’ ability to continue to work as a team; energy management depending on personality style; managing interpersonal interactions; reinforcing and understanding boundaries as well as understanding various forms of power and influence that must be used appropriately with recruiters and applicants.
Q: Has the use and expectations of mental health professionals within recruiting changed within the past few years? If so, how?
A: The role of the behavioral health consultants (BHCs) have expanded in the last few years and that is primarily because USAREC recently increased the number of authorizations for psychologists. We have to balance not just traditional clinical care but also operational demands and organizational needs. We continue to forge new grounds and reinforce the appropriate use of the BHCs. They perform many traditional clinical tasks except direct care in the form of therapy. They direct care, train and educate commanders in the care and management of Soldiers in a high-risk environment and often times serve as the liaison between clinicians and commanders to ensure appropriate care and disposition of Soldiers. The operational requirements vary according to the need of the unit and often work closely with our operations cell particularly when it comes to training and education that positively influences mission accomplishment. Additionally, the BHCs help to influence current policy or the creation of new policy based on the unmet needs or gaps in support and care of our Soldiers.
Q: How do you think the troop draw-down will impact recruiting from a mental health standpoint?
A: It depends on which aspect of the force reduction we are addressing. Our recruiting mission did not decrease, so we will need more Soldiers to accomplish our mission. However, an assignment to recruiting duty will require that Soldiers are fully capable of performing independently in a high risk-operating environment. It is not an environment in which everyone can work. It is demanding and we will have to ensure we provide as much stress inoculation, performance enhancement and adaptive leader training so that we create and sustain strong working teams.
The other side of the draw down is that we may see a loss of Soldiers who may have to leave service because of the attrition criteria. It will be no different for USAREC than for other units in the Army who will be losing Soldiers. In this respect we may see an increase in individual and family stress behaviors.
Q: What do you wish more people knew about Army Recruiting (and mental health)?
A: There are several things we want people to know. Recruiting is not an easy job even when many people are interested in joining the Army. It is a demanding job that requires a lot of effort, adaptability, affability and stress resistance in order to perform the job on a regular basis. We are also not staffed at the same level as similar level units one might find in garrison. With these givens, we need clinicians to do the hard job of determining the suitability of an individual for recruiting duty. Recruiting duty is not an entitlement and not everyone is suited to operate in such an environment. The work conducted by the clinician is not a rubber stamp. They must look at the Soldier with jaded eyes and determine if this individual can operate in a high-risk environment safely and reliably.
Second, clinicians need to really put forth a solid effort to complete solid assessments (CDMHEs) and make meaningful recommendations for commanders. They must also work with all the resources a unit has available. This includes the commander, the immediate supervisor, the BHC/brigade psychologist and Soldier and Family Assistants. These resources have intimate knowledge of the Soldier in his/her typical environment and are essential in the implementation of any recommendations. At a minimum, clinicians should always talk to the commander and the brigade psychologists, especially when the Soldier is high risk.