With the APPIC Match 2017 approaching, the search for the “perfect” internship site begins. As you start to draft your spreadsheet of internship sites, I strongly encourage you to consider internship opportunities that you might not have given thought to previously.
The Army offers four APA-accredited internship sites across the United States: Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center, GA, Brooke Army Medical Center, TX, Madigan Army Medical Center, WA, and Tripler Army Medical Cente, HI. The Army has a new internship site that is applying for provisional accreditation: Womack Army Medical Center, NC.
Each Army internship site has a niche which makes it unique; however, all of the Army internship sites share a common thread, which is a generalist approach to training. I have received training in neuropsychology (TBI, memory disorders), assessment, health psychology (biofeedback, bariatric surgery evaluations, pain/sleep/diabetes/weight management, smoking cessation), and military psychology. The military psychology rotation focused on conducting military specific evaluations and consultation skills.
Military psychologists wear different hats: therapist, evaluator, supervisor, and consultant to name a few.
Benefits of an Army Internship
Most individuals who apply to the Army internship sites have an interest in working with individuals who have experienced trauma. Other common presenting concerns in our military population are problems with adjustment, depression, anxiety, and sleep.
My peers and I are trained in evidenced based treatments for trauma such as Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) and Prolonged Exposure (PE). I am also trained in The Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality (CAMS), which has been beneficial in my work with suicidal and high risk patients. Other trainings I received include CBT-I for insomnia and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). For some of these trainings, I received paid travel to San Antonio, TX, Washington DC, and North Carolina.
After you have been practicing for a few years, you have the option of applying to one of the Army’s fellowship programs to receive specialized training in the areas of health psychology, neuropsychology, forensic psychology, or pediatrics.
Leadership & Consultation
In addition to your psychology training, you will have leadership opportunities.
Most, if not all, military psychologists hold positions of leadership. The opportunity to be a leader will distinguish you from your peers. Whether you choose to stay in or to leave the Army, you will have clinical training and skills which are unique, highly valued, and marketable.
Military psychologists are expected to be the subject matter experts (SME) in the areas of PTSD, suicide, and sleep to name a few. As a trainee and Army psychologist, you will be consulted upon by other medical providers or commanders for your expertise. With consultation versus therapy, you can affect change at a larger level.
Pay & Benefits
Commissioning as an Army Captain offers you a competitive salary along with housing and subsistence allowances. Additionally, you will have paid time off for training and federal holidays. As you progress in your career you will receive regular pay increases every two years.
The Army offers bonuses for being licensed and board certified, and it currently provides an incentive of approximately $5,000 a year for being licensed.
You will receive free medical/dental care. Your spouse and children will also be eligible for these medical benefits.
Costs of an Army Internship
There will be a time commitment – direct commissions owe the Army 3 years. Your time owed begins once you are licensed.
I am completing my post-doc residency where I completed my internship, which is great because I did not have to search for a new placement or have to move again.
However, if you plan on pursuing a military career, expect to move every 3-4 years and/or have a deployment. This may or may not be an issue depending on your life circumstances.
Who Is A Good Fit?
Those who are interested in working with service members & family members. If you are a service oriented person, the Army sites give you the opportunity to serve your country and to provide care to soldiers and their families.
Those who are very adaptable and flexible. As mentioned, being adaptable and flexible will be in your best interest and a good trait to have while you are in the Army given the frequent moves and unexpected changes. It would be a good trait for your partner to have as well.
Those in good physical and mental health. You will need to meet accession standards to join the Army, which means you have to be in good physical and mental health prior to joining the Army. There are certain medical/behavioral health conditions that will immediately disqualify you from military service and Army internship training. If you are interested in the Army sites, you will want to make sure that you can physically keep up with the Army Physical Fitness Standards as you are required to meet height/weight standards and pass a physical fitness test every 6 months.
Those whose beliefs, values, and goals fit with the Army. The benefits I spoke about earlier are mostly extrinsic, but your intrinsic motivation is what will push you and make you successful. Think about your personal/professional core beliefs and values, what your future goals are, and if the Army fits into that picture.
Who Is Not A Good Fit?
If you are interested in working with an inpatient population and/or those with severe chronic mental illnesses such as eating disorders, mania, or psychosis, the Army internship sites are not likely to be a good fit for you. Given the standards to join the military, most of these individuals have been disqualified at the front end or will be disqualified from continued military service if they develop these conditions.
If you want to do the same thing over and over. The day to day activities of a trainee/Army psychologist varies. If you want to do back to back therapy sessions you will be greatly disappointed. Half of your day will be spent doing patient care and the other half will be spent providing supervision to behavioral health techs, consulting, attending briefings, engaging in crisis management, etc.
Things to Do if You Are Interested
Talk to your immediate family about their thoughts and feelings in regards to you joining the military and also how frequent moves/possible deployments might impact the relationship dynamic. This will not only be a 3-4 year commitment for you, but for your loved ones as well.
Talk to an Army medical recruiter sooner rather than later. A recruiter will help you navigate the military, and for those who do not have military experience, they can be an invaluable resource. An Army recruiter can also help determine if you meet medical and education standards to join. It is estimated that about 70 percent of the US population would not qualify for military service, so it would be better to know sooner rather than later if you qualify before you become highly invested in the process.
Talk to program directors at the Army internship sites and ask to link up with interns/residents who have gone through this process. They will be great additional resources for any questions you might have.
You do not have to have prior service experience to apply for the Army internship sites. It varies year to year but in my year group of approximately 30, 70% of us had NO prior service experience. Not having prior military service will not hinder you. There is a steep learning curve, but like graduate school and working at different practicum sites, you pick up on things quickly as you go along.
The gender makeup of the Army internship programs actually resembles that of the current field of psychology. There are more females than males in the Army internship sites, but most of the cohorts have an equal number of males and females. My cohort has three females and four males with varying backgrounds and experiences which I think made for a good balance. I have about an equal number of both male and female patients I see.
My two years of both internship and residency have been wonderful. If I had completed my training somewhere else, I feel that I would have received good training, but I do not think I would have learned some of the things that I have in the Army. The complexities and nuances of working in a military setting have provided me with unique challenges that not only developed me as a clinician, but also as a leader and person.
I have spoken to non-military colleagues and past supervisors who said that they wish they had known about the Army internship sites after hearing about my internship experience. I wish they had too.
I hope that this article has helped to demystify the Army internship sites for you. Please feel free to ask any questions or share your experience in the comments below.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the official position of any agency of the U.S. government.
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Latest posts by Sarah H. Afriecq, PsyD (see all)
- Have You Considered an APPIC Internship with The Army? - October 26, 2016