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Mil Med. 2011 Dec;176(12):1362-8.

Effect of psychological skills training during military survival school: a randomized, controlled field study.

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  • 1Department 163 (Behavioral Sciences & Epidemiology), Naval Health Research Center, 140 Sylvester Road, San Diego, CA 92106, USA.


In this randomized, controlled field study, we examined the effects of a brief psychological skills training (PST) intervention on stress responses during military survival school. A second purpose was to build upon prior research in this unique environment by extending the follow-up window to 3 months. Baseline subjective distress (dissociative) symptoms were measured in 65 male military subjects, who were then randomized either to PST or a control group that received no training beyond the normal survival school curriculum. PST received training in arousal control, mental imagery, goal setting, and positive self-talk in two separate 40-minute sessions before stressful field exercises. Stress symptoms were then assessed during a mock-captivity phase of training, as well as 24 hours, 1 month, and 3 months after completion of training. Repeated-measures analyses of variance with follow-up paired t tests examined differences between groups and across time. Survival training precipitated remarkable increases in subjective distress, but few substantive group differences emerged. This study extends prior work quantifying the human stress response to intense military training.

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