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Social Work Professor Is Psychologist for Army National Guard

November 10, 2023

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Photo by Madeline Mortensen

When a U.S. soldier is deployed, they risk facing unimaginable horrors and possibly sacrificing their own life to protect our country. While they’re away from home, family, and everyday comforts, they often need help lifting emotional burdens and finding relief. In an interview, David Wood, a professor in the BYU School of Social Work, he shares his experiences working with veterans and being one himself.

Students address him as professor, but to his military unit of 13 years, Wood is known as ‘the psych.’ He is a uniformed clinical psychologist for the Army National Guard. As a reservist, Wood has a career outside of the military, and when called into active duty, is placed in an international station.

Reservists usually drill once a month to train for their military role. They also complete annual summer trainings. In those drills, Wood meets with soldiers to help them address mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, moral injury, family situations, and controlling substance use.

“Most of the time, a soldier is just looking for someone to talk to," Wood says.

Being a soldier, and now a veteran, is not an easy feat. Though not on active duty, as a reservist, Wood still is obligated to meet all the usual requirements, including staying sharp in combat skills and passing the Army Combat Fitness Test twice a year.

Despite the challenge, Wood says that “It's cliche, but I wanted to serve my country.”

He was commissioned as an officer in 2009, when the Army Reserves were busy with Iraq and Afghanistan. “I said, ‘yeah, let's do it.’ And I don't regret it. It has been great for me.”

One experience that stands out to Wood from when he was on active duty was in 2021, was when the National Guard partnered with the Kingdom of Morocco. Wood trained alongside the Moroccan Army, working in tandem with foreign soldiers to become a team and build connection despite their differences in culture.

Now, as a veteran and reservist, his greatest experiences are when he's “sitting with soldiers who are in psychological pain, experiencing turmoil and difficulty, and working with them to help promote a sense of optimism about their ability to overcome" challenges, Wood explained.

He's most proud of how he's remained in the same military unit for 13 years, building a reputation of trust and confidence with soldiers.

“To have the gratification of knowing that I can be there to help soldiers in a time of need, at a time of pain and despair, is of great value to me,” Wood states. "I love supporting our soldiers."

When asked about how his service has impacted his religious life, Wood says that he's honored to serve.

"I think it pleases Heavenly Father, that his children serve in this way, and serve their country,” Wood says as he explains why he believes the sacrifice is worth it.

Wood encourages people to contemplate service. "I'm not trying to be a recruiter, but I think that it's important that we have people in our communities willing to serve in the military and to serve their country."

As we commemorate Veterans Day, soldiers and civilians alike are grateful for Wood's healing service.

Read more faculty member spotlights from the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences.