Practice of Military Psychology

Historically, forensic psychology professionals working in the military subspecialty were outside of the theater of operation during wartime. When the United States became involved in Iraq, forensic psychology professionals working in the military subspecialty were called upon to do more than tend to post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) issues behind the lines. They found themselves on the front lines: in the Green Zone, within the confines of “Gitmo,” and even at Abu Ghraib. Additionally, they have been asked to do things and play roles that were typically foreign to past forensic psychology professionals working in the military subspecialty. In the past, some military psychology professionals and psychiatrists played roles very similar to civilian forensic psychology professionals, only using the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the law that drives the United States’ military, as the backdrop for their involvement with the legal system. This was not unlike civilian forensic psychology professionals going from one state to another. As you have seen in the past weeks, forensic psychology professionals often apply their skills to different jurisdictions that may or may not have the same definitions of concepts such as insanity or competency to stand trial.


Today’s military psychology professionals can find themselves carrying an M-16 and wearing a flak jacket and helmet. Other areas of service potentially provided by military psychology professionals include consulting on the training of enlisted personnel and the selection and training of Special Operations soldiers, assisting in the evaluation of pilots for their fitness to fly, providing “psych ops” for various operations, and providing stress management training. Some of the changes in roles and responsibilities of forensic psychology professionals working in the military subspecialty have not come without growing pains. And many of the new areas in which military psychologisy professionals are engaged can and do utilize psychological principles and fall into forensic psychology’s “bivouac.”


One area in which military psychology professionals are used has generated much thought and, at times, heated debate within the field of psychology. Following the fallout of the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay incidents, questions have arisen concerning the participation of military psychology professionals in the interrogations of military combatants. International law and the Geneva Conventions cover the treatment of prisoners of war and non-combatants. Countries have agreed to abide by these and other international laws during and outside of times of war. Additionally, military psychology professionals must abide by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Some argue that they should have no involvement in the interrogation process. Others say that having them involved, in the capacity of overseer, actually prevents abuses from happening. Certainly a conflict can be created for military psychology professionals, given their dual allegiances to both the military and to the standards of psychology. In this Discussion, you have a chance to think about and give your input on this topic.

To prepare for this Discussion:

  • Review the article “Multiple Relationships in Military Psychology” in this week’s Learning Resources. Pay particular attention to the types of multiple relationships that can occur for military psychology professionals, and consider the differences between the practice of military and civilian psychology.
  • Review the Web site “Society for Military Psychology: Strategic Plan 2007-2012: Charting a Course for the Future.” Think about the future direction of military psychology.
  • Review the Web site “Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War” and consider what role military psychology should have in the interrogation and treatment of prisoners of war.
  • Review the American Psychological Association’s, “Actions to Implement the Council Resolutions Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.” Focus on APA’s definitive position on torture and reasons behind it.
  • Review the APA Letter to Bush: “New Policy Limits Psychologist Involvement in Interrogations.”
  • Think about whether military psychology professionals should have any involvement at all in the interrogation and treatment of prisoners of war.
  • Think about major ways in which the practice of military psychology differs from “civilian” psychology.

With these thoughts in mind:

Post by Day 4 your thoughts about a forensic psychology professionals working in the military subspecialty role in interrogations in various settings including but not limited to prisoner-of-war camps and warfare. Also, briefly explain the most important differences in the practice of military psychology from that of civilian psychology.

Be sure to support your postings and responses with specific references to the Learning Resources.

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