Already more than 100 civilian and 150 military psychologists have completed training at the Center for Deployment Psychology (CDP) as part of its Defense Graduate Psychology Program, the newly launched Department of Defense initiative that seeks to boost the psychological care of men and women in the armed forces and their families. The center-which APA was actively involved in getting off the ground-offers graduate-level psychological training to military and civilian psychologists in the form of two weeklong sessions at the CDP's headquarters in Bethesda, Md., and provides psychologists as training faculty to each of the 10Department of Defense clinical psychology internship sites across the country. Training focuses on the psychological needs of military service members and those close to them,including acclimation to deployed life; traumatic responses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and suicide; psychological issues surrounding severe injuries, such as the loss of limbs or head injuries; and readjusting to life postdeployment.
Col. Bruce Crow, PsyD, Chief Psychologist of the U.S. Army, described the CDP's history and mission at the annual Education Advocacy Breakfast hosted by APA's Education Government Relations Office during APA's 2007 Annual Convention.
Crow said the evolving nature of war has forced the military to move away from having military members serve in protracted campaigns; these days, service members have more expeditionary roles, with shorter, more frequent deployments. This reorientation brought with it a host of psychological unknowns, Crow said.
"We realized that there was much to learn about the stressors and psychological factors associated with living through cycles of deployment to combat, return from deployment, and preparation for future deployment" Crow said.
Crow also stressed that there are positive developments that occur, too. People undergo a lot of personal growth and maturity in these campaigns, which presents another area for looking into, he said.
In April 2006, a committee of military personnel and civilian psychologists set up the CDP and selected psychologist David Riggs, PhD, as the center's executive director. Prior to this appointment, Riggs instructed professionals in how to treat PTSD in survivors of international terror attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami as well as military trauma and sexual assault.
At the session, Riggs noted that future topics for CDP education will include increasing outreach to the community through Internet resources to help psychologists serve the friends and families of those deployed and developing an easily accessible knowledge base for psychologists on specific therapeutic strategies.