The Uniformed Services University’s Center for Deployment Psychology (CDP) held its 7th iteration of the Summer Institute: Preparing for a Psychology Career in the Military on the Bethesda, Maryland campus from 26-30 July 2021.
Since 2015, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th year clinical and counseling psychology doctoral students who anticipate or are seriously considering a military internship apply to the Summer Institute in hopes of gaining knowledge about what it would be like to serve as a psychologist in the Armed Forces and to increase their competitiveness for an active duty internship placement.
This year, forty-two students from across the country came together to participate in the program, representing over 30 institutions and diverse backgrounds, including 26% Black or African-American students and 12% Hispanic students. While COVID-19 necessitated virtual attendance for the 2020 class, with the pandemic restrictions lifted, this year’s cohort was able to attend the course in person, which enabled networking with the presenters and each other.
The Summer Institute is designed to provide critical knowledge on the variety of roles military psychologists take on to enhance the readiness of Service members. This year, Dr. Tim Rogers, the Assistant Director for Training and Education at the CDP, led a discussion on Military Culture on the first day. Students explored values and assumptions related to working with the military population and how the warrior ethos and military culture may be at odds with traditionally-delivered behavioral health care. Afterwards, Dr. Rogers reviewed the myriad of responsibilities that military psychologists may assume and how they differ from those of civilian psychologists when he presented Introduction to Military Psychologist Activities.
Similar to past years, the Training Directors Panel was one of the course highlights. Students heard directly about military internship programs from three Training Directors representing the different services: MAJ Raymond Beckman from the US Army, Dr. John Ralph John (CAPT, USN (ret)) and Lt Col Stephen Stouder from the US Air Force. The panel discussed clinical rotation opportunities, offered guidance on determining best fit among the different sites, and spoke about qualifications they look for in internship applicants. Students were able to ask the Training Directors questions in the large discussion group, as well as spend face-to-face time with them in informal small group conversations.
Other sessions offered during the Summer Institute included The Military Family Experience, Assessing Military Clients for Trauma and PTSD, Ethical Considerations for Working with Military Members, and Moral Injury, as well as a full day focused on Addressing Suicidal Behavior in the US Military, all delivered by CDP faculty. The students also had the opportunity to connect with military psychologists in the field at different stages in their careers. CAPT Erin Siebert from the US Air Force, LT LaToya Small from the US Navy and LCDR Vanessa Goosen from the US Public Health Service shared their accounts, including the challenges and rewards of serving and unique assignments and deployments they have experienced.
The 2021 Summer Institute was highly rated by the students. Samuel Alex, one of the nine HPSP students participating in the course this year, stated: “I wanted to go in as equipped as possible to better represent myself. I have learned a great deal about being prepared to work with individuals with suicidal ideation and I have been able to form new friendships with like-minded individuals.”
Over the past six years since the first Summer Institute course, a need to reach those students unable to travel to Bethesda and/or for whom the summer does not fit their schedule became clear. Thus, in an effort to extend this unique training opportunity to more doctoral students across the country, The Winter Institute was created. This three-day virtual course will be offered for the first time on 10-12 January 2022 and is aimed at students seriously exploring the idea of applying to a military internship. Like the Summer Institute, the Winter Institute involves no tuition cost, but differs from the Summer Institute in the following ways:
By offering the winter course through Zoom, the CDP anticipates reaching a larger and more diverse applicant pool. To learn more about The Winter Institute, visit: https://deploymentpsych.org/winter-institute.