Clinical child psychologist Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) has consistently voted to continue America's military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan while appreciating the deepening psychological toll the repeated deployments and combat experiences are taking on service members. That's why Murphy, 57 and now in his fourth congressional term, secured a commission as a military psychologist in the Naval Reserve.
“It'd be difficult for me to continue to vote to send soldiers there and not provide for them what they needed when they got back,” he says.
The Naval Reserve commissioned Murphy at the rank of lieutenant commander in August, and he serves as an unpaid volunteer. As a member of Congress, he cannot be mobilized to active duty and serve in a war zone, but he is obligated to spend two days a month and two weeks a year in uniform as a drilling reservist.
Last January, he started accruing 30 hours of continuing education and applied to have his Pennsylvania license reactivated.
As a military psychologist, Murphy works with a team of health professionals at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. In September and October, he spent four days shadowing Bethesda's psychiatric and psychological staff through the hospital's wards, learning how they deliver treatment. It's a team approach, with all medical specialties regularly meeting, talking through treatment plans and tracking each patient's progress, Murphy says.
At Bethesda, Murphy works with spouses and children of injured service members, and assesses how a family is functioning in the aftermath of a traumatic injury. The team's goal isn't “patching them up,” he says, but setting each service member on a path to healing, with a complete array of medicine, psychotherapy and rehabilitative services.
Murphy hopes other psychologists follow his example, either by joining the military or finding a way to work directly with service members and veterans.
“These are great men and women who are doing extraordinary things, and we need to be thanking them and supporting them,” he said.
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