The Adler University Military Psychology Program - Considering “Cultural Competency” through the Communication Perspective

The Adler University Military Psychology Program - Considering “Cultural Competency” through the Communication Perspective

Adler University is now offering a unique Master’s degree program in military psychology, encompassing a deep examination of the individual, organizational, and global impact of security and engagement with conflict.  The program was developed by Joseph Troiani, who is a graduate of Fielding Graduate University. The inaugural faculty includes several other Fielding graduates, including Stephen Redmon and Barton Buechner.  Buechner is a member of the Board of Directors of the CMM institute, and provided input for including CMM theory and methods into courses that address morality, ethics and social justice, research methods, and the capstone seminar. 

The Adler Military Psychology program is differentiated from other offerings in this field in several critical ways, particularly the inclusion of a broadened epistemological and theoretical foundation not commonly fond in clinicall-based programs. The course is taught online with a diverse cohort consisting of service members and veterans, their spouses and family members, along with licensed psychologists, social workers and counselors. Course material is drawn from disciplines including history, politics, sociology and psychology, and is framed and integrated to help students better understand the cultural and social impact of the military on individuals and societies in a global context.

Several conceptual models used in the course include “Cosmopolitan Communication” from Barnet Pearce’s “Communication and the Human Condition” and “Moral Conflict” by Barnett Pearce and Stephen Littlejohn.  The latter is used as a text to help students understand the nature of conflict, and how it may be prevented or transformed through discourse. Feedback so far by students also indicates that these concepts of social construction and communication help to explain the impact on individuals when they participate in conflicts, and how to make sense of the impact on individual belief systems and mental health that arise from participating in conflict.  This is particularly useful for envisioning ways that the results of moral conflict (sometimes referred to as “moral injury”) can be addressed in both individual and systemic ways.  On another level, taking a “communication perspective” on veterans’ care and support upon their return also opens possibilities for ways to improve communication between veterans, their families, social and clinical service providers, and policymakers.

A recent public seminar illustrated how some of the ideas from this course can be applied to public discourse around veterans. The Fielding Graduate University Veterans Connections group and Media Psychology program organized a public seminar on the topic of communicating with veterans, and ways to overcome the “military-civilian divide.”  Panelists and other participants considered the experience of veterans in returning to society and dealing with the intercultural complexity of managing meaning between organizational and social contexts that often have little in common. One emergent theme was “shaping the narrative” of veterans’ service in conflicts, and creating more space for their stories to be told.  The incorporation of CMM theory and the “communication perspective” in the Adler Military Psychology program provides an example of how this can be done.  The first cohort of 14 students will graduate in September of 2015.

For more about this subject, see:

Description of the Adler Military Psychology Masters degree program:

“A comprehensive online curriculum immerses students in every aspect of mental health and the U.S. military, including operational psychology in the military, the psychology of conflict, trauma and loss, mental health law in the military, understanding the VA healthcare system, and much more…”

Commentary on Moral Conflict by Pearce and Littlejohn:

“Pearce and Littlejohn seek to develop new, more productive ways of expressing moral difference and managing moral conflicts…. ‘situations in which the social worlds or moral orders of the participants are incommensurate.’ Their primary approach is via communication theory, but the authors draw on fields ranging from moral philosophy to the sociology of knowledge.”

How the concept of Moral Injury differs from seeing response to traumatic experience primarily as a mental disorder (PTSD):
“Moral injury is a relatively new concept that seems to describe what many (veterans) feel: a sense that their fundamental understanding of right and wrong has been violated, and the grief, numbness or guilt that often ensues…..(from) struggling with the moral and ethical ambiguities of war.”

Participants in the “Communicating with Veterans” discussion at Fielding Graduate University Summer Session prepare to engage in dialogue. Pictured at lower right are Colonel Rafa Linera, Fielding Media Psychology student; Sergeant Carlos Evans, veteran advocate, and Dr. Joseph Trioiani, founder of the Adler Masters in Military Psychology program.

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