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Teaching military cultural competency to clinicians and clinical students: Assessing impact and effectiveness

APA Citation:

Isserman, N., & Martin, J. A. (2021). Teaching military cultural competency to clinicians and clinical students: Assessing impact and effectiveness. Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship, 13(4), Article 12. https://doi.org/10.54656/wrqx5143

Abstract Created by REACH:

This study examined experiences of behavioral health clinicians who completed a 15- hour military cultural competency training. 35 behavioral health clinicians completed the training and participated in focus groups during the last meeting. 12 of the clinicians also completed a follow-up interview after 6 months to assess the impact of the training on their clinical practice. Both at the end of the course and 6 months afterward, clinicians reported positive changes to their perspectives, practice, and confidence in serving military families.


Mental health

Branch of Service:

Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Military non-medical service providers


Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)


Qualitative Study


Isserman, Nancy, Martin, James A.


Military members, veterans, and their families belong to a unique American subculture. Studies have identified the need for mental health professionals to attain military cultural competency to practice more effectively within this subculture. As an 88-year-old counseling and training agency with a record of service to the military/veteran communities, it was appropriate that Council for Relationships commit to providing training in military culture for its therapists and students. From 2017 to 2019, the course highlighted in this paper was part of an approved Institutional Review Board (IRB) study intended to assess the success of graduate-level instructional activities focused on promoting participants’ military and veteran-related cultural competency. This article includes an evaluation of the 2013–14 four-day training on military culture that preceded the course. In both, the unique cultural factors associated with military and veteran service were addressed within the context of evidence-based behavioral health treatment. A survey of the four-day participant training and qualitative interview follow-ups revealed that information about the military and its impact on veterans and families promoted changes in attitudes, knowledge, and clinical practice for both experienced and newly trained clinicians. These findings were replicated in the three-year evaluation results. This assessment provides valuable insight about military culture training for practicing and future mental health clinicians. Since there is very little information available in the literature on successful military culture competency training, sharing these results with the broader military and academic communities will give others information on the important components of effective training programs for clinicians, thus, potentially improving therapeutic services to these populations.

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

Council for Relationships, NI
Bryn Mawr College, JAM


military cultural competence, military culture, newly trained clinicians

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Research Summary

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