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on May 15, 2017
Major Matthew Nielsen
2008, Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology
Illinois School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University | Schaumburg
Director of Mental Health Services for the United States Air Force
“I have fond memories of my professors at Argosy University. They are each different in their teaching style, personalities and passions but I always felt that they were experts in their fields.”
Oversees Staff Who Conduct Services in Outpatient Mental Health; Collaborated to Write Air Force Guide for Suicide Risk Assessment, Management and Treatment
Dr. Matthew Nielsen is the director of mental health services for the United States Air Force at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. He oversees 56 staff members who conduct services in outpatient mental health, primary care behavioral health, domestic maltreatment and alcohol/drug abuse. “We currently treat [only] active duty service members and we have over 11,000 patient encounters per year,” he said. Nielsen is a major in the United States Air Force and has served for 10 years.
Nielsen completed a Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University | Schaumburg in 2008. He chose to pursue an undergraduate psychology degree because he enjoyed talking with people. “I tried a few business ventures before my wife encouraged me to re-look at pursuing my graduate degree in psychology,” he said. “After conducting interviews at different schools, Argosy University felt like the right fit for the knowledge and experiences I wanted to obtain. The professors there also seemed fantastic. It ended up being the perfect choice.”
“I joined the United States Air Force for my internship in to get training in health psychology, neuropsychology and adult outpatient mental health services,” said Nielsen. “[My intention was to] serve the four-year commitment, then start a private practice. I’ve now been serving on active duty status for almost ten years and can't imagine doing anything else.” Nielsen added prior to his internship, he didn’t realize that the military employed psychologists.
Nielsen’s military career provided growth opportunities that allowed him to balance his desire to have both clinical and administrative/leadership responsibilities. “I also find deep satisfaction in serving the heroes who sacrifice so much for this country,” he added.
In 2010, Nielsen deployed to Iraq for a six-month tour where he treated soldiers on the front lines. He returned and worked in an administrative position at Air Force medical headquarters. “I was the Air Force lead in collaborating with the nation's and even world's top suicidologists in writing the Air Force Guide for Suicide Risk Assessment, Management and Treatment,” he said. “This guide has become a national benchmark for many civilian organizations. I was also responsible for the mental health business operations for 2,000 mental health personnel and two million beneficiaries.”
Nielsen has eight published or pending-published manuscripts related to primary care behavioral health (PCBH) services in core competency skills training, provider attrition, patient satisfaction, primary care team member perceptions, marital interventions, providing PCBH services in a deployed environment, utilizing mental health technicians and utilizing PCBH as the access point for mental health related care.
He contributed to a chapter on military suicide and prevention and recently completed a one-year pilot study at three locations where patients were seen in PCBH before being seen directly in specialty mental health outpatient clinics. “This led better access to care, decreased mental health stigma and a decrease in out of network costs among other benefits,” he said.
Additionally, Nielsen is working with medical leaders to create PCBH policy as the mental health access point and to implement the plan across the Air Force. He’s proud to have been named the Air Force Company Grade Officer of the quarter in 2013 and the Society of Air Force Psychologists, Field Grade Officer of the Year in 2016. He earned the Air Force Surgeon General Research award in 2016.
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