Master Resilience Training (MRT) is a resilience-training program that is offered by the United States Army. The goal of the program is to teach officers about resilience and to train those officers to teach other soldiers about resilience as well. It is a joint effort between the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania and the United States Army.
Read on to learn about what MRT is and whether or not it has found success in its short time as an army offering. This piece also includes PowerPoint presentations which can help clarify MRT for more visual learners.
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What is MRT?
Master Resilience Training (MRT) is “a 10-day program of study that teaches resilience skills to noncommissioned officers” which has been offered in the United States Army since 2009 (Reivich et al., 2011). MRT is an aspect of the United States Army’s broader Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program (Seligman et al., 2011). The program consists of three different components:
MRT was developed as a joint undertaking between the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania (which developed the preparation component), the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (which developed the sustainment component) and the United States Military Academy at West Point (which developed the enhancement component).
An important goal of the program is to teach these officers how to teach the program’s skills to other soldiers. This is because the army believes that MRT is the:
“backbone of a cultural transformation of the U.S. Army in which a psychologically fit army will have equal standing with a physically fit army” (Reivich et al., 2011).
MRT is partially based on the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Resilience Program (PRP), developed in the 1990s as an attempt to help prevent depression. In the first two years of its existence, the MRT program was taught to over 2,000 noncommissioned U.S. Army officers at the University of Pennsylvania (Cornum et al., 2011).
Master Resilience Training in the US Army
MRT was developed for and in conjunction with the United States Army, and is used to help soldiers be more resilient on and off the field of battle. While PRP was initially developed to help prevent depression, MRT is especially focused on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Specifically, the army was interested in fostering a proactive approach to PTSD, rather than simply waiting for soldiers to come home with PTSD and then beginning to treat it. The US Army is also interested in teaching MRT skills to families of soldiers as well as non-combat members of the army.
A study conducted after the MRT program had been offered to soldiers for four years examined the success of the program (Griffith et al., 2013). Over 90% of participants found the program to be “very helpful or helpful”, with the second module being rated as the most helpful and the third module being rated as the least helpful, although over 60% of participants still found the third module to be helpful [see below for more information on the modules]. Most interestingly, over 95% of participants said they found themselves using skills they learned in MRT both on the job and in their personal lives.
These findings indicate that MRT has been a resounding success in the short time it has been offered, as soldiers have overwhelmingly found it helpful. Even the third module, which was rated as the least helpful module of the seven, was still considered helpful by well over half of the participants. The fact that soldiers have found MRT’s teachings to be valuable in both their work and personal lives shows the usefulness of the program, and indicates that it could easily be adapted for general use outside of the army.
7 Modules of the Trainer Course
The preparation component of MRT consists of fives separate modules, while the sustainment and enhancement components each consist of their own modules. This means that the entire MRT program consists of seven different modules taught over the course of ten days. These modules, in the order that they are taught, are:
- Resilience (Two and a half days)
- Building Mental Toughness (Two and a half days)
- Identifying Character Strengths (One day)
- Strengthening Relationships (One day)
- Concluding Preparation Module (Half a day)
- Sustainment Module (One day)
- Enhancement Module (One day)
The first five modules which make up the preparation component are clearly influenced by positive psychology, which is unsurprising considering they were mostly developed by the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center.
- The first module covers a number of topics, from what resilience is to which mental factors contribute to resilience (including self-awareness and optimism).
- The second module focuses on how to cultivate these mental factors that contribute to resilience, by promoting problem solving and gratitude, among other things.
- The third module focuses on identifying character strengths in oneself and in others,
- and the fourth module focuses on strengthening relationships between soldiers and other soldiers, as well as between soldiers and the other people in their lives, such as family members.
- The fifth module revisits the first four modules and also focuses on training soldiers to teach other soldiers these resilience skills.
- The sixth module (the first one that is not a part of the preparation component) focuses on “reinforcing resilience skills over the course of a military career and applying these skills in the military-specific context” (Reivich et al., 2011). This module was mostly developed by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
- The seventh and final module, mostly developed by the Army Center for Enhanced Performance and heavily based in sports psychology, “presents an overview of the key skills taught by sports psychologists. The skills introduced are mental skills foundations, building confidence, goal setting, attention control, energy management, and imagery” (Reivich et al., 2011).
Interestingly, only one of these seven modules, the sixth one, is solely applicable to a military setting. The rest are geared towards soldiers but can easily be adapted for a general audience. This is expected, as five of the modules were developed by the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania while only two were developed by the army, but it shows the potential for MRT in a non-army setting. One could imagine managers in a workplace learning about MRT and then passing on the skills to their employees, as well as a similar thing happening in schools.
A Handy Powerpoint Presentation
For people who want to learn about MRT in a more visual manner, or for people who want to teach others about MRT, a PowerPoint presentation can be useful. A very helpful (though non-comprehensive) PowerPoint presentation on MRT comes straight from the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center itself, and can be found here or here. This presentation only focuses on the very first module of seven, but it is a complete lesson plan regarding the first module, resilience.
A more broad but less deep presentation on MRT comes from the U.S. Army, and can be found here. This presentation focuses on several modules of MRT, but most heavily focuses on the second module, Building Mental Toughness, which was rated the most useful module by soldiers who have undergone the training program. While this presentation focuses on the second module more than anything, it also touches on others, such as module 3: Identifying Character Strengths, which is of particular interest to positive psychology.
One more PowerPoint presentation comes right here from your friends at the Positive Psychology Program. The presentation is an overview of what the MRT course looks like, including an overview of each module and what it consists of. It is not as in-depth as the other two presentations, but it covers the entirety of the MRT program, while the other two focus on different aspects of MRT. Click here to access this PowerPoint.
A Take Home Message
While MRT is heavily geared towards soldiers and the families of soldiers, there are some lessons we can all take from the program. One of the main ideas behind MRT is to stop being purely reactive to issues such as PTSD and start taking steps to being more proactive. (Cornum et al., 2011). This emphasis on being proactive is a cornerstone of positive psychology, as positive psychologists believe that everyone should know how to improve their lives, not just people whose lives need improving.
While it may not seem that MRT’s teachings apply to you, we could all benefit from learning about resilience and how to teach other people resilience skills. After all, the most valuable aspect of MRT is its focus on making sure people who complete an MRT program are able to pass on the program’s teachings to others. If you learn about resilience and all of its benefits, you are not only helping yourself, but are also helping anyone who you may pass your knowledge on to in the future.
- Cornum, R., Matthews, M.D., Seligman, M.E.P. (2011). Comprehensive Soldier Fitness: Building resilience in a challenging institutional context. American Psychologist 66(1), 4-9. doi:10.1037/a0021420
- Griffith, J., West, C. (2013). Master Resilience Training and Its Relationship to Individual Well-Being and Stress Buffering Among Army National Guard Soldiers. Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research 40(2), 140-155. doi:10.1007/s11414-013-9320-8
- Reivich, K.J., Seligman, M.E.P., McBride, S. (2011). Master Resilience Training in the US Army. American Psychologist 66(1), 25-34. doi:10.1037/a0021897
- Seligman, M.E.P. (2011). Building Resilience. Harvard Business Review 89(4), 100.