What is Military Psychology?


In this article we will define Military Psychology, we will also explain who military psychologists are and what their main functions are.

Table of contents

Military psychology is the discipline that offers support and guidance to overcome the mental disorders and emotional problems suffered by soldiers in the military world.

Military Psychology has the function of evaluating, assessing and treating the members of the Armed Forces, intervening both in the selection process and during the period of military service.

The combatants and people who are dedicated to the military field are a population at risk for presenting psychological alterations since they are exposed to multiple stressful situations.

In this way, it will be important to work to prevent the appearance of possible disorders or treat them when they are already present in order to ensure that the affected person can join as soon as possible.

There are many areas or specialities in which the military psychologist can act, such as teaching, clinical, community social, organizations or health, doing promotion and prevention work.

In this article we will define Military Psychology, we will also explain who military psychologists are and what their main functions are.

What is Military Psychology?

1. How is Military Psychology defined?

Military Psychology is a branch of Psychology that deals with evaluating and assessing the behavior of the members of the Armed Forces, both in their selection and during the performance process, to assess which function is best for each one as well as to control and treat possible psychological problems that may appear.

They will also take into account the behaviors and capabilities of the opposing military forces.

As antecedents of the application of Psychology in the military context, we should highlight Robert Woodworth who created the Woodworth Personal Data Sheet (PDS), the first personality test that aimed to detect soldiers who presented vulnerability and susceptibility to developing a neurotic picture and thus to be able to carry out an optimal selection process in order to prevent future damage and alterations.

Although at first the intention was to use it during the First World War, it did not arrive in time for this task, but this personality test was used in multiple psychological investigations and served as a model and background for many other tests that sought to measure similar things.

2. The military psychologist

To access to work as a military psychologist, a series of requirements must be met, first, and as in any case that is practiced as a psychologist, one must have a degree in Psychology.

In the same way, different aspects are also controlled, such as not being deprived of civil rights or not having committed a criminal offence.

If you meet and fulfill the pertinent conditions, you will be able to access the selection process that consists of a competition procedure and an opposition procedure. The contest phase consists of assessing the merits of the different applicants in order to make an ordered list of preference for each one according to their preparation.

In the same way, in the opposition phase, different tests or exams will be carried out that will consist of

  1. a psychophysical aptitude test, in which physical, psychological and medical capacities and aptitudes will be assessed, in this way a pass or fail result will be obtained;
  2. an English language test, where written comprehension, grammar and vocabulary will be evaluated;
  3. a knowledge test, consisting of assessing the knowledge of each psychological specialization.

Thus, the military psychologist can specialize and intervene in:

  • Psychology of the Organization and Human Resources;
  • Operational Military Psychology, which consists of assessing, taking into account, human and group factors and leadership skills in military operations;
  • Preventive and expert psychology;
  • Clinical psychology;
  • Educational psychology, for professional guidance;
  • Social Psychology, in order to assess individual and group behavior.

In this way, now that we know the different specialties that the psychologist can perform in the military field, it will be easier to classify the different functions that he exercises.

Want more content like this? Join thousands of daily readers and get future posts delivered straight to your email inbox—including articles exclusively for email subscribers.

Thank you for subscribing!
Please check your inbox for a link to confirm your email address.

3. Main functions of Military Psychology

Working and dedicating oneself to the military field is not easy and requires constant control, both prior to selection and during service to the Armed Forces, to anticipate and manage possible deregulation or alterations given that the conditions are especially stressful.

Likewise, the military psychologist will have as one of the main functions to assess and control the state and balance of mental health of the members of the Armed Forces and their environment, such as their family.

In this way, he will intervene in the selection of personnel, taking into account those who have the most appropriate characteristics according to the position that is required to be filled and the responsibility that dedication to the military field entails.

Therefore, the psychologists will be in charge of passing the pertinent tests and interpreting the results to assess the psychophysical aptitudes of the applicants, examining both their mental and physical health, their different capacities such as memory or reasoning, and their behavioral characteristics. Personality and possible psychological alterations that may be grounds for exclusion.

The work of the psychologist in the field of military education is also extensive and important, with a quarter of military psychologists performing this function. He will carry out his functions both with the students to guide them in their study plans and objectives as well as with the teachers, supporting and collaborating to achieve an optimal educational model that promotes and works on the ideal skills and abilities for the relevant professional objectives.

Another process where the work of the psychologist in the military field will be essential is to help the members to adapt optimally to their new life, military life, since this implies a great change and many more demands and regulations.

In the same way, as I have already pointed out, military dedication can be complicated, causing personnel to have to face extreme and very stressful situations that can lead them to present borderline thoughts or behaviors such as suicide, the military population is especially vulnerable to commit this type of acts, since it is easy for them to obtain the necessary means to commit them.

For this reason, it will be essential to do a good job of prevention, selecting, as I said, the right people and controlling their evolution. He will also intervene in possible stressful or crisis situations to be able to treat and stabilize as soon as possible, always keeping in mind the situation of those close to us.

Thus, it will be vital to have a professional, a psychologist, who deals with the mental state since post-traumatic stress situations that appear during or after wars are typical, both in soldiers who are in combat and those who have not fought, since it is not necessary to be directly exposed to the traumatic situation since the fact of being aware of and receiving information about it can also create a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Another typical maladaptive behavior that they can present is self-aggressive, consisting of causing harm to oneself and that can end up leading to suicidal thoughts and attempts, as I have already mentioned.

It will be vital to teach and work so that they learn to correctly channel their emotions and thus be able to avoid or treat risk behaviors and situations, with the aim that the military can return to their duties as soon as possible and perform them in the best possible way.

Similarly, linked to the fact that the combatants belong to the population at risk, it will also be essential to prevent possible substance use and addiction, providing information and imparting knowledge of the effects and consequences of drug use, creating and working in groups to get them to support each other, creating healthy leisure environments, training strategies to know how to decline and resist the offer of drugs and establish rules of conduct in order to reduce the possibility of access to substances within the military context.

As I have already advanced, the focus of action of psychologists in the military context will not be focused only on combatants, but will include a wide group of individuals. It will also work with their environment, with their relatives and the society where they belong, since they will be affected in the same way and may present different types of alterations.

Likewise, professional psychologists will also participate in the design and construction of operational designs to confront and combat the enemy or promote and continue to reinforce motivation and a combative attitude. 

The destabilization and loss of physical and psychological strength is very common given the extreme conditions that are experienced, for this reason the support and work of the psychologist will be very important to achieve a prosperous state and functioning of the army.

Also mention that the Armed Forces founded the Social Institute of the Armed Forces in the 1980s, which is an occupational center that cares for individuals with some type of intellectual disability.

The main objective of this institute is to work on the different skills of users so that they can more easily access the workplace and achieve better social integration. To achieve this goal, occupational workshops are given, social support and psychological care are provided, and for job placement.

Want more content like this? Join thousands of daily readers and get future posts delivered straight to your email inbox—including articles exclusively for email subscribers.

Thank you for subscribing!
Please check your inbox for a link to confirm your email address.

4. Bottom line

Therefore, the function of the military psychologist is essential and requires specific training and preparation since he will deal with cases of people who risk their lives, and therefore it is very easy for mental health disorders to appear, thus requiring constant support to improve their condition and performance.

❤️ Enjoy this Newsletter?

Don't forget to subscribe here

Forward to a friend and let them know where they can subscribe (here).

Follow Me on Twitter @f_djiometio.

Disclaimer: This article is purely informative, I have no authority to make a diagnosis or recommend treatment. I invite you to visit a psychologist to treat your particular case.