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PhD Student attends Summer Military Careers Institute

Samantha Mitchell

Sami Mitchell, a student in the PhD in Clinical Psychology program, attended The Summer Institute of the Pathways to Military Behavioral Health Careers program.

The five-day Institute is offered at no cost to current doctoral students in clinical or counseling psychology. It was established to raise  awareness of what it would be like to serve as a psychologist in the Armed Forces and to increase their competitiveness for a military internship.

“My current practicum placement is at the Palo Alto VA and I have enjoyed every minute of it so far,” siad Mitchell, who hopes to establish a career as a clinical psychologist within the Veterans Affairs system.” Mitchell said.

She recognized The Summer Institute as a unique training opportunity. “I am interested in polytrauma among military personnel, focusing on traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder,” Mitchell said. “I am also interested in neuropsychological assessments and how those can be used to inform treatment among military personnel.”

According to the Pathways to Military Behavioral Health Careers website, “participants acquire first-hand knowledge of military culture and the work of behavioral health providers serving in uniform, learn from experts in the field, meet behavioral health providers currently serving in the military, and interface with like-minded peers from across the country.”

While at the Summer Institute, Mitchell enjoyed meeting students with similar interests from across the country, especially since they all shared an interest in working with the military community.

“The biggest benefit and surprise that I gained from the program were the various ways that we can help our veterans and the military community without actually serving [in the military] ourselves. There are plenty of opportunities for civilians to make a difference within the military community,” she said. “Prior to the Institute, I thought the only way to work within the military community was either to serve or work at the VA. There are plenty of other options out there that I didn’t know existed!”

In addition to seeking professional development and new career opportunities on her own, Palo Alto University seemed like the right place to build her foundation.

“I decided to apply to PAU because of the emphasis in trauma. I always knew I wanted to work with military personnel who have experienced trauma, so it only felt right to apply to a university that could offer me the additional training in trauma studies that other universities do not offer.”

Mitchell plans to continue her focus on trauma amongst military personnel, TBIs, and PTSD. Next year, she plans to continue at a VA site for practicum and hopefully during her internship as well.