Promoting Psychological Resilience in the U.S. Military

By Lisa S. Meredith; Cathy D. Sherbourne et al. | Go to book overview

Summary

Study Background, Purpose, and Approach

The long and frequent deployments of U.S. armed forces associated with Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), combined with the other consequences of combat, such as exposure to trauma, have tested the resilience and coping skills of U.S. military service members and their families. While most military personnel and families are resilient under these difficult circumstances, many also experience difficulties handling stress at some point.

Psychological resilience refers to the process of coping with or overcoming exposure to adversity or stress. With regard to mental health interventions, psychological resilience is more than an individual personality trait—it is a process involving interaction among an individual, that individual’s life experiences, and current life context. For example, resilience can apply to contexts relevant either to prevention (before exposure to stress) or to treatment (when recovering from the harmful effects of such stress).

Over the past several years, DoD has implemented a number of programs and strategies to promote psychological resilience among service members. Although the value of resilience programming is widely accepted, little is known empirically about the programs’ effectiveness or the extent to which they are based on factors identified by social and behavioral science as contributing to resilience in individuals or groups. Although some previous research has shed light on the factors that foster psychological resilience, this research has typically not been assembled in a summary form that can be used easily to design programs. Moreover, previous research has not fully examined how these factors might apply in the military.

To assist DoD in understanding factors and methodologies that are informed by social and psychological research and may be useful in promoting psychological resilience in service members and their families, RAND NDRI conducted a study to identify evidence-informed practices for promoting factors that foster psychological resilience. The study also assessed selected resilience programs to determine whether they incorporate evidence-informed practices to promote resilience and includes a literature review and a program review.

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