Minding the Military
By Rick Van Sant
Lonnie Bradford is intent on blending his interest in psychology with his family’s history in the United States military. The 25-year-old student in the doctoral program in psychology hopes to land a clinical psychology internship in the Army. Xavier caps its PsyD program with a required yearlong internship, and military internships have become popular choices for some students. Three students are currently serving their internships in the Army, another is an Air Force intern and Bradford, who is attending on an Army scholarship that pays tuition and a stipend, is optimistic about being chosen an Army intern in February.
“I became interested in the Army because I have a pretty long and extensive family history in the military,” Bradford says, “starting with kind of an ancient ancestor of mine who fought at Valley Forge with George Washington. One of my grandfathers was in Germany during World War II and my other grandfather was in Korea. I’m really proud of our service, and my interest in serving in the military is something that certainly makes my family very proud for me to pursue this.”
Bradford, a native of northern Minnesota, says he chose Xavier’s doctoral program in psychology because it emphasizes serving the underserved. Each student chooses concentrated study in one of three segments of the population—adolescents and children, the elderly or the severely mentally disabled. Military internships offer another opportunity to provide a critical service, says Bradford.
“Psychologists in the Army are in a unique position to work with what I feel is one of the greatest populations in the world—people who make an incredible amount of sacrifice. They also have an incredible amount of need, especially with so many deployments they experience.”
Christine Dacey, chair of the Department of Psychology, agrees that military internships are a good fit with Xavier’s program. “We can certainly think about the armed forces as being underserved,” she says. “There’s a huge shortage of services right now for people coming back with post-traumatic stress and other kinds of issues. Our Army interns work in behavioral health care centers with soldiers, and I think that fits very well with the concept of serving the underserved.”
The doctorate program, which leads to a Doctor of Psychology as opposed to a Doctor of Philosophy, accepts 16 students a year. It has had more than 100 students graduate since the program started in 1997. “Ours is a clinical program and practitioner-focused,” says Dacey. “Our students are trained to be practitioners and they become licensed clinical psychologists. There is heavy emphasis on projects that involve the community. The fifth-year internship requires full-time work in a clinical setting. In terms of service to our community and communities across the country, our students are involved in providing 60,000 hours a year of professional services.”
While most students opt for civilian internships, military internships provide “wonderful opportunities” for others, says Dacey. “What generally happens is that they have won a military scholarship and the internship becomes part of that process,” she says. “After the one-year internship, they have a military service obligation for three more years.”
Bradford says an Army internship is a natural progression from Xavier’s training. “Xavier and Army internships have very similar philosophies in that in the Army you have to become a type of psychologist that’s going to be able to roll with the punches to be able to function really effectively in a lot of different types of environments,” he says. “Xavier really stresses a good generalist training. We’re training psychologists who are going to be able to work in multiple domains and develop competencies across the board.
“I’ve already had the opportunity to work with people who have very chronic medical conditions and people with brain injuries. Neuropsychology is something I’m going to be able to develop further while in the military.
“Clinical psychology was pretty much born in the Army, in terms of classifying soldiers into different jobs and treating soldiers with shell shock during the world wars. There’s a long history of excellent psychology training in the military, and I think I’m going to have opportunities and experiences I wouldn’t be able to get otherwise. I think it’s going to be an incredible adventure.”