November 1st, 2011

Careers in military behavioral health: opportunities for growth

Psychologists seeking to serve their country, use their clinical skills to help a most deserving demographic, enhance their professional expertise and achieve personal fulfillment may find what they are looking for by earning a commission in the Army.

To enhance recruiting efforts, the U.S. Army offers a number of opportunities with significant incentives and benefits for psychologists who join the service.

Ingrid Lim, Psy.D., command psychologist, U.S. Army Recruiting Command in Fort Knox, Ky., says, “The increased need for psychologists, both uniformed and civilian, is related to changes in how forces are structured, such as increases in authorization/requirements and because of an increase in the patient population of soldiers and their spouses and children.”

Depending upon the way in which a psychologist enters the Army, the time commitment varies. “A typical commitment is four years of active duty service. Some psychologists are ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corp.) graduates, while others participate in the Health Professions Scholarship Program, Army Clinical Psychology Internship or multiple programs,” says Lim. “Additionally, a student at the Uniformed Services University for Health Sciences may graduate as an Army Psychologist. Finally, a licensed psychologist may obtain a direct commission into the Army.”

Lim says that the number of active duty psychologists fluctuates based on training and retirements. “But I believe we have about 170 in uniform and about 300 civilians. The Army is looking to increase both the number of people serving in uniform and those serving in our civilian corps,” she says.

While many psychologists serve stateside, opportunities to participate in overseas missions occurs at times. Army psychologists slated for deployment typically undergo the same combat-related training all soldiers receive for basic protection, including weapons qualification and attack response, notes Lim. “The [psychologist] will get further training on working within a mass casualty situation, sometimes combat lifesaver training and basic combat first aid training,” she adds. “Some psychologist-specific training involves understanding, managing and assessing TBI (traumatic brain injuries), working with special military populations and managing/treating combat/operational stress.”

According to the U.S. Army’s Web site, psychologists who join the Army enjoy a number of academic, professional and financial benefits. The Health Professions Scholarship Program provides full tuition to students in APA-accredited clinical or counseling psychology doctoral programs, as well as a monthly stipend of just over $2,000, and reimbursement of some academic fees.

The Clinical Psychology Internship Program enables those who have received a doctorate in psychology to participate in a one-year internship at five military medical treatment facilities in the country.

The Army also offers a number of loan repayment programs for qualified psychologists. Up to $120,000, paid over a three-year period, is available for repayment of postgraduate education costs through Health Professional Loan Repayment. Another program, Special Pay, provides up to $12,500 annually for a three-year obligation and $15,000 a year for a four-year commitment to clinical psychologists who do not hold a commission in any service. The Army Reserve may pay clinical psychologists special pay of $75,000 in three installments.

By Phyllis Hanlon

4 Responses to Careers in military behavioral health: opportunities for growth

  • November 20th, 2011 at 5:28 pm Ken posted:

    Thanks for this. Very informative. Being in the Army, from New England, and interested in Psychology-this site was a real great find for me.

    Thanks again.

    • February 16th, 2013 at 12:32 am Captain David Villarroel posted:


      Give me a call or email me. I’m an Army Healthcare Recruiter in Massachusetts. I can answer your questions and help you start down the road trowards being a Military Psychologist.

      David Villarroel, MPH, PHR, CPH
      Captain, Medical Service Corps
      US Army Health Care Recruiter
      Cell: 1-888-505-7367

      • February 25th, 2013 at 3:13 pm Denise M.T. Yocum posted:


        Wanted to also let you know that if you are interesting in advertising for psychologist positions we are the most cost effective way to do so. I’d be happy to forward that information if you are interested.

        take care, Denise
        Denise M.T. Yocum, Psy.D.

  • June 2nd, 2016 at 12:02 am nba posted:

    Love the website– very individual pleasant and whole lots to see!

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