Work by APA and others is shining
the spotlight on the needs of service
members and their families.
A National Reserve soldier returns from
Afghanistan suffering symptoms of post-traumatic
stress disorder, but his small, rural town doesn’t
have a Veterans Affairs facility with clinicians
trained in military medicine. Instead, he sees a
civilian therapist who doesn’t understand military
culture — or how to help unearth his despair. The
patient leaves without adequate treatment.
Such scenarios happen all too often, says
psychologist Brian Baird, PhD, a former
Democratic congressman from Washington state.
“We’ve done a lot in the social service and
mental health realms to talk about cultural
diversity, but we’ve done virtually nothing to
train health-care and social service providers in
understanding military culture,” Baird says. Yet
more than 2 million Americans have served in
Iraq and Afghanistan alone, putting themselves
and their families at risk for mental health issues
stemming from the stress of deployment.
Now, Baird is part of a movement aimed at
improving training in military issues for health-care providers outside of traditional veteran
treatment programs. Recently, for example, he
and others worked with the National Board of
Medical Examiners to include questions about
military care on the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam.
Because of this change, more medical schools are
likely to add military care to their curricula (only
half taught military health in 2012, according to
a survey by the Association of American Medical
Baird also supports efforts to have state
licensing boards require continuing education
in military and deployment issues for all health
APA is also working to improve clinician
training and military care, says Heather O’Beirne
Kelly, PhD, head of APA’s Military and Veterans Policy team. In its efforts,
• Supporting the “Ask the Question” movement that encourages —
if not mandates — health-care professionals to routinely ask patients
whether they have served or are part of a family with a service member.
• Partnering since 2012 with the White House Joining Forces Initiative to
improve care for military members and families. As part of this effort, APA
garnered pledges from more than 140 educational institutions to offer more
training in military medicine to psychology students; produced a webinar
to help educate psychologists in military health issues; and gathered a list of
resources for psychology education and training programs.
• Developing continuing education resources on military topics through
APA’s Office of Continuing Education in Psychology.
APA also developed the Center for Deployment Psychology
( deploymentpsych.org), a program now run by the U.S. Department of
Defense that offers a variety of training options, including free online
training for civilian psychologists in military culture and care.
— Lorna Collier