Military psychology: what it is, characteristics and functions

In recent years, military psychology has gained notoriety within the armed forces, becoming recognized as a full-fledged health profession, included in the Military Health Corps and referred to as clinical psychology.

But the role of clinical psychologist is not the only one played by psychologists within military psychology, but the latter perform a wide variety of tasks in different fields (for example, educational psychology, organizational psychology and psychology). applied in military operations, among others).

Military psychologists, belonging to each of the units of which they are part of the Spanish Army, belong to the officer level.

Then we will give a brief reminder of the functions performed by military psychologists in the Armed Forces (FAS) in Spain.

    What is military psychology?

    Military psychology is the field of psychology practiced by military psychologist officers where they perform research tasks, recruitment tests, educational support in training academies, prevention plans, psychological support and treatment in order to facilitate the FAS soldiers a better adaptation to the place where they perform their duties , as well as providing support to members suffering from any type of mental health problem (e.g., prolonged stress, post-traumatic stress disorder after being on or near the line of fire, etc. ).

    Below we will see in more detail the areas of intervention of this branch of psychology.

      Functions of military psychologists

      These are the tasks performed by military psychologists in the various departments and units of the FAS.

      1. Assessment of psychophysical skills

      Candidates for military posts must pass a series of tests, including psychophysical skills, consisting of a series of tests. exams to assess health and fitness, which would be evaluated by a military physician.

      There would also be evaluation tests in psychiatry (P), conducted by psychologists and psychiatrists in the military.

      These aim to assess basic psychological skills such as memory, attention, verbal reasoning, spatial reasoning, etc.

      They also assess personality, emotional stability and whether there is psychopathology in the candidate.; in this case, he will be assessed whether the degree of seriousness could be an obstacle to being able to perform with solvency the functions of the post to which he aspires and, therefore, he would not proceed to the next phase of the recruitment tests.

        2. Psychological examination of personnel within the Armed Forces

        Another function of military psychology is psychological examinations. Recognitions made to military personnel when a commander has detected that a soldier may lose psychophysical faculties.

        It is at this moment that a report is issued to first examine the subject in a recruiting unit of a Defense hospital in order to detect whether there is a psychophysical or psychopathological problem that may hinder his ability to exercise his place in the army.

        If severe psychopathology is detected, a second assessment by the Psychiatric Medical Expert Council will be requested.

          3. Assessment and diagnosis in military clinical psychology

          These military psychology tasks within the FAS began to be established initially for the purpose of selecting and ranking the psychophysical abilities of soldiers, rather than for diagnostic purposes.

          In the assessment and diagnosis of military psychology the psychometric, trait or attribute model is used fundamentally.

          The goals of the psychologist in this section are:

          • Promote the performance of the various members of the FAS.
          • Prepare subjects for their assigned duties.
          • Improve the satisfaction of individuals with their work, so that they are more efficient.
          • Help us adapt to these newly incorporated soldiers.

          4. Psychological assistance in military units

          There are many reasons why a member of military personnel might seek psychological help. The Military Psychology Center intervenes taking into account the following aspects: reason for the request for assistance, degree of urgency and nature thereof.

          The combination of the factors mentioned above will determine the type of care and the duration (seriousness of the problem, if there is more than one problem, the most appropriate model of psychotherapy for the problem to be treated, the number of professionals who must intervene). , need or not for an interdisciplinary approach if there was another comorbid pathology, etc.).

          The purpose of psychological assistance that the member can return to his post in the army as soon as possible and successfully; of course, by following the psychological treatment in an orderly manner and without forcing a hasty reincorporation, while respecting the rhythm necessary for recovery.

            5. Brief psychotherapy to support soldiers

            This type of psychotherapy is often used by military psychologists with the aim of treating as early as possible. mental disorders that soldiers can develop as a result of certain actions required by their profession; especially when they are in the area of ​​operations of a mission.

            The main objective of this therapy is to help the soldier to discover the causes of the mental health problem from which he is suffering and to urgently put in place an action plan to initiate a therapeutic process that goes straight to the epicenter of the root of the problem.

            6. Prevention of drug use in the armed forces

            A very important task that they do of military psychology is prevention plans with the aim of preventing drug use by soldiers.

            The main ones drug use prevention plan strategies son:

            • Provide objective information on drugs to raise awareness of the harms of use.
            • Encourage healthy leisure alternatives in the civilian sector.
            • Train colleagues in order to be able to act as mediators in the prevention of drug use within the unit.
            • Provide rules and control strategies to reduce accessibility to drugs within the Armed Forces.
            • Train soldiers to improve their social skills in order to effectively manage drug-related situations within army units.

            In cases where drug use is detected by a member of the Unit, a psychological intervention plan will be carried out using a therapy modality focused on substance abuse disorders and, subsequently, therapeutic support will be provided in order to maintain abstinence and thus prevent relapses; in addition to working with a possible triggered dysphoric state.

            7. Treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in FAS

            PTSD is a very common psychological disorder among soldiers and, even more so, among those who have participated in complicated missions abroad or in war conflicts.

            In a study by Futterman and Pumpian-Mindlin (1951), it was discovered that PTSD tended to occur in a higher percentage among non-combatants than among those in the combat zone, because non-combatants were exposed to the traumatic events of the situation they found themselves in while being unable to channel their emotions. The importance of studying PTSD since World War I is emphasized.

            This is why military psychology has developed a brief and immediate psychological treatment plan by the toilets located near the fire line so that people with acute stress reactions in combat can recover as soon as possible and, if possible, prevent further development of the PTSD.

              8. Social benefits in the armed forces

              In the 1980s, the Special Center of the Social Institute of the Armed Forces (CEISFAS) was created, a professional center of the Armed Forces, with the aim of providing helps people with intellectual disabilities.

              Within this organization several activities are developed within 3 main areas:

              • Trades workshops.
              • Social support and psychological care.
              • Access to employment.

              The main objective of CEISFAS is to help users who come to the center to acquire a greater development of skills which can facilitate their professional and social integration.

              9. Military training from military psychology

              Military psychology has members in all academies and military training centers; Outraged, a quarter of the psychologists in this army do military education.

              The other psychologist officers who belong to the Army carry out reinforcement activities as tutors and teachers in other educational training activities as is the case of the Basic Psychopedagogical Aptitude Course for officers and under -School officers. .

              The main objective of the officer psychologists who serve in military schools is to help students succeed in their respective programs and, like military teachers, the task of the psychologist is to help them. development of a pedagogical model based on the valuation of skills, the creation of active learning strategies and the improvement of pedagogical skills, among others.

              The other goals of the psychologist in this area are:

              • Consulting work at the military education center.
              • Education in values ​​within military academies.
              • Psychological support during the training of future military pilots.
              • Military teaching jobs at the Naval Military School.
              • Psychological action in a psychology cabinet of a military education center.
              • Research and development work.

              10. Psychosocial risks for military personnel

              Such risks constitute one of the most important threats to health and safety in the working environment that people face, including those in the Armed Forces (e.g. stressors related to interpersonal relationships in the work unit, organizational climate, etc.).

              In this field of military psychology, psychologists carry out 5 types of interventions: personnel selection process, organizational socialization, training plans, normative regulation and career development.

              11. Other tasks performed by military psychologist officers

              Below are other functions performed by military psychologists.

              • Peace missions in countries in conflict.
              • Leadership and training tasks in command exercises.
              • Negotiations in the army.
              • Social skills training.
              • Psychological treatment in military prisons.
              • Psychological interventions in emergency and disaster situations.
              • Operational model of psychological combat potential.
              • Psychological support for stress management in military operations.
              • Psychological assistance to the international missions of the Army.
              • Practice hostage survival skills.
              • Psychological preparation of personnel on board a warship.
              • Treatment of psychological aspects in terrorism.

              Bibliographical references

              • De Sebastià, L. (2018). The compromise between military psychology and military education. Army Magazine, 931, 106-111.
              • Donoso, D. (2012). Psychology in the armed forces. Madrid: Press Ministry of Defense.

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