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Military psychologists and cultural competence: exploring implications for the manifestation and treatment of psychological trauma in the British armed forces
  1. Imogen Sturgeon-Clegg and
  2. M McCauley
  1. DCPS, Ministry of Defence, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Imogen Sturgeon-Clegg, DCPS, Ministry of Defence, London SW1A 2HB, UK; drimogen{at}


This paper considers the manifestation and treatment of psychological trauma in the military. The article describes how military psychologists conceptualise psychological trauma within the culture of the Armed Forces (AF), which is reflected in the process of acquiring what has been referred to as cultural competency. Psychologists in this context acquire an understanding of the manner in which the psychological and organisational systems and culture of the military affect the presentation of psychological trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The paper outlines core psychological features of military life, including some of the ways in which the AF functions effectively as an adaptable fighting force. This highlights, for example, the potential for stigma within and between military personnel who experience mental health difficulties. The article proceeds to examine aspects of help-seeking in military mental healthcare, how symptoms can present at different stages in a deployment process, and the consequences that such problems can cause for military conduct and performance. Psychological care in the military is structured within an occupational mental health ethos, in which psychologists fulfil a range of clinical, organisational and leadership roles. These dynamics are explored with examples of care pathways and clarity on evidence-based interventions for trauma and PTSD in those experiencing military-related psychological injuries. Two vignettes are then offered to illustrate how some of these interventions can be used psychotherapeutically in addressing symptoms pertaining to hyperarousal, hypervigilance, guilt and shame.

  • military trauma
  • military post-traumatic stress disorder
  • cultural competence

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  • Contributors The authors have contributed jointly to this article.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval Neither author is a serving member of HM Forces. However, CC1 approval has been submitted.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.