Military involvement in war creates tension to both militants and their respective families. This tension consequently results to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and thus the army has to responds to this problem. In the United States of America, the army formed a Military Master Resilience Training (MRT) to avert psychological trauma issues.
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This MRT program bases on the positive psychology principles, though to a certain extent, they somehow differ. Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) program based on positive psychology principles. Despite the fact that both positive psychology and MRT programs have a common goal, several differences including time spent in training, the performance assessment tools incorporated and the number of program elements each of them use somehow differ.
The modern world suffers from several challenges including international civil wars, crime, and terrorism. While several service members and their families have managed to cope with the condition, majority experience difficulties in handling stress at a certain point. Due to this blemish, military and security systems in every nation are prepared for any challenging encounters. Tension is always surrounding service members involved in combat and their families (Cornum, Matthews and Seligman, 2011).
For these soldiers and their families to remain resilient to the posttraumatic stress disorder that comes after or during war, MRT program is necessary. This program largely depends on principles of positive psychology. This essay seeks to explore the relationship between military master resilience training and positive psychology, by examining the similarities and differences in these programs.
Overview on Military Master Resilience Training
Military Master Resilience Training (MRT) is a U.S. based resilience-training program, which provides optimism education to non-commissioned officers. The training is specific for soldiers to ensure that combat members are prepared to have competence in mental alertness, confidence, self-awareness, and self-efficiency. The course is one of the most significant programs in the U.S. combat as it provides foundational support of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program (CSF).
According to Reivich, Seligman, and McBride (2011), this program comes in three major components including preparation, sustainment, and enhancement. Preparation component began in Pennsylvania University of Positive Psychology. This component takes the first eight days of MRT training. The sustainment component, which underlines readying training program, emerged from research conducted by Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (Cornum, Matthews and Seligman, 2011).
Overview of Positive Psychology
Positive psychology refers to a branch of psychology that emphasizes on promoting mental performance of human beings beyond normal mental health. Positive psychology is a recent psychology concept that began in 1998. The concept resulted from Martin Seligman’s interest of instilling resilience in the U.S. army.
Cornum, Matthews, and Seligman (2011) assert that positive psychology resulted from military activities and thus widely practiced in army. It aims at recognizing and replacing automatic negative thoughts and enhancing positive attitudes through a series of organized trainings. Positive psychology has existed in academic curriculums, and research has empirically proven it in several studies.
This psychology emphasizes that individuals should improve their lives and health through positive thoughts. By doing so, one is capable of living positively regardless of the existing challenges in the surrounding environment (Kauffman, 2006). Positive psychology, enthused by empirical proof, mostly emphasizes on dynamic approaches towards handling pain, as well the enhancing importance of calming potency and virtues to a minimum suffering.
There are several similarities between Master Resilience Training and Positive psychology. Firstly, both practices have similar objectives or rather aims. Scientifically, according to Kauffman (2006), positive psychology is a coaching science that primarily aims at shifting individual’s attention away from pain and pathology and diverting it towards optimistically concentrating on gaining strength vision and dreams, and Master Resilience Training purports the same.
According to Reivich, McBride, and Seligman (2011), Military Resilience Training Program is a training program whose aim is to provide optimism education to the U.S. combat non-commissioned officers to ensure that combat members are prepared to have competence in mental alertness, confidence, self-awareness, and self-efficiency. In simple terms, they both aim at providing psychological preparedness to fit in challenging environments.
Their main theme is to ensure that people do not suffer from psychological disorders resulting from stresses developed through facing confrontations. The two disciplines agree with each other that exercise and mental couching help in reducing psychological disorders.
Master Resilience Training and positive psychology serve under similar principles initially developed by the Penn Positive Psychology Center. The principles bare three components, which are applicable in both MRT and positive psychology including preparation, sustainment, and enhancement.
In Military Resilience Training, Reivich, McBride and Seligman (2011) assert, “The preparation component teaches resilience fundamentals based on the Penn Resilience Program (PRP) curriculum as well as on other empirically validated interventions from positive psychology” (p.25). On the other hand, Kauffman (2006) explains that positive psychology, “provides a robust theoretical and empirical base for the artful practice of life and executive coaching” (p.219).
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They both emphasize that for training should be successful, personal happiness is mandatory. In MRT, preparation trainers achieve the preparation component through large group plenary sessions where the officers get an introduction to key components of the program. Regarding preparation in positive psychology, the training ensures that members receive an orientation into the training program before the training begins officially.
Despite the numerous similarities, MRT and positive psychology differ in some aspects. There are different program elements that are applicable in MRT and positive psychology. Each of the training has different numbers of program elements.
MRT program, which involves Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF), focuses on four program elements namely “assessment of social, emotional, spiritual fitness, individual learning elements, formal resilience training, and training Army Masters how to inculcate better philosophy skills and resilience to their assistants” (Cornum, Matthews, & Seligman, 2011, p.3). On the other hand, positive psychology possesses six program elements as well, but differs from the Military Resilience Training.
According to Kauffman (2006), positive psychology harbors six elements viz. “clear and immediate feedback, absence of self-consciousness, merging action and awareness, sense of control, intrinsic motivation or auto telic experience and balance skills and challenge” (p.228). However, all the elements have specific significance in each of the programs, as they are part of the training.
Another significant difference in the programs is time. The time span spent in the MRT training differs from the one practiced in the positive psychology, depending on the component. Since CSF underscores resilience in soldiers as one of the MRT programs, CFS training differs with positive psychology training in terms of time spent to cover the program.
According to Reivich, McBride and Seligman (2011), the United States Master Resilience Trainer course takes a span of 10 days to teach soldiers on resilience proficiency. On the other hand, the positive psychology program takes a longer time in training compared to the MRT program.
Kauffman (2006) asserts, “The effect of this one-week self-administered exercise was still strongly evident at follow-up assessments six months later” (p.233). In the contest of the assessment, the MRT assesses soldiers immediately after a soldier joins the army and reassessment takes place throughout a soldier’s life, while in the positive psychology, the assessment takes place within six months of training.
MRT and positive psychology differ in terms of the assessment tools they incorporate in their programs. MRT uses the Global Assessment Tool (GAT), which focuses on trailing the psychological fitness of soldiers by examining aspects of resilience available in soldiers including social, family, spiritual, and emotional (Cornum, Matthews, & Seligman, 2011). GAT is an online-administered exam in the form of questions, which assess four dimensions of psychological fitness.
The GAT tool is not for selecting soldiers for schooling, promotion, or even command, but primarily used to assess soldiers’ mental agility. On the other hand, positive psychology program uses a self-administered questionnaire to measure client’s level of happiness and assist them to avoid pessimistic ideas during training (Kauffman, 2006). Positive psychology training uses the satisfaction scale as well, which involves measuring client’s satisfaction during the training.
MRT vs. the positive psychology (merits)
MRT and positive psychology are equally important in human life. MRT is most beneficial to individuals working in the U.S. military. Despite the fact that it involves families through its preparation component where civilians mix with soldiers in the breakout sessions with facilitator teams, this does not fully benefit civilians since they miss several elements of the training.
According to Reivich, Seligman, & McBride, (2011), after the training of the year 2009, soldiers evaluated the program, and according to their view thought the training helps soldiers to develop personal and professional life skills, and “MRT training should be mandatory for all ranks, families, and civilians” (p.32).
In this context, positive psychology has found its way into schools, businesses, and therapies proving significant in spreading the positive elements of psychology to the rest of the civilians. This aspect portrays MRT training program as biased and not beneficial to the entire population.
MRT vs. Positive psychology (demerits)
Undoubtedly, positive psychology enhances wellness in mind through emphasizing on crucial aspects of personal development. However, the chances of MRT and positive psychology proving excellent in handling human post-traumatic disorders and related disorders are minimal.
Both of them significantly overemphasize on personal development through personal growth and autonomy and thus pose a threat to the future perception on medical treatment, which has also proved somehow significant in handling chronic psychological disorders. This overemphasis will automatically displace the importance of treatment-based approaches such as vaccination against depression, which is one of the most significant medical prevention measures currently used and proved successful.
Traditional treatment oriented clinical psychology is significant for it treats veterans experiencing combat-stress related symptoms. Cornum, Matthews, and Seligman (2011), postulate that the medical interventions “develop improved screening for psychopathology, and once detected, increase the therapeutic services available” (p.4). This clearly demonstrates how too much reliance on positive psychology and MRT may turn harmful.
Concentrating too much on the personal strengths underpins the fact that human weaknesses set numerous lessons in one’s life as well as triggering employment of proper intervention to avoid the repeat of such weaknesses (Kauffman, 2006).
Actually, it is not advisable to ignore one’s weaknesses and emphasize on one’s strengths. Too much overemphasis on strengths will tend to ignore other vital challenges facing the world. Reivich, Seligman, & McBride, (2011, p. 29) assert, “Challenging counterproductive thoughts is not about replacing every negative thought with a positive one”, rather it is a technique of helping someone to avoid distracting thoughts.
In fact, it leads to building of extraordinary confidence in someone, which may turn as harmful and put an individual in danger. In the context of training, not all individuals might be positive throughout the training session, and thus individual thoughts and perception can lead to incomplete acquisition of skills if members can influence others negatively. Therefore, achieving the goal of positive strengths in the MRT and positive psychology might not be successful.
Military is a very challenging profession, and with the increasing cases of civil wars, tension surrounds combat members and their respective families. Due to this aspect, two main approaches help to enhance resilience and curb psychological and physical disorders that affect soldiers. Military Resilience Training uses four important principles that are coherent with the positive psychology.
MRT and positive psychology have similar objective. Positive psychology is a coaching science that primarily aims at shifting individual’s attention away from pain and pathology and diverting it towards optimistically concentrating on gaining strength on vision and dreams.
On the other hand, Military Resilience Training Program is a training program whose aim is to provide optimism education to the U.S. combat non-commissioned officers to ensure that they are prepared to have competence in mental alertness. However, the two programs differ in the elements they posses and the time spent for the training.
Positive psychology training takes longer time span than the MRT. In terms of program elements, positive psychology has six elements, while the MRT has only four elements. The assessment tools used by the two programs differ as well, with the MRT using GAT and the positive psychology using self administered questionnaires and satisfaction scale to measure mentally fitness and satisfaction respectively.
Cornum, R., Matthews, D. M., & Seligman, M. P. (2011). Comprehensive Soldier Fitness: Building Resilience in a Challenging Institutional Context. Journal of American Psychologist, 66(1), 1-4
Kauffman, C. (2006). Positive Psychology: The Science at the Heart of Coaching. In D. Stober & A. Grant (Eds.), Evidence-Based Coaching: Putting Best Practices to Work for Your Clients (pp. 219-251). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Reivich, K., Seligman, M., & McBride, S. (2011). Master Resilience Training in the U.S. Army. Journal of American Psychologist, 66(1), 25-34.