The Psychology of Combat and (Lawful) Killing – A Conversation with West Point Professor Lt Col. Dave Grossman

The Psychology of Combat and (Lawful) Killing – A Conversation with West Point Professor Lt Col. Dave Grossman

EDITORIAL NOTE: In June of 2020, after a series of murders of black Americans including Breonna Taylor and George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement, a long-time listener raised a concern regarding this episode, particularly a shift in the conversation from the context of military combat to general policing.

Upon reflection, we note that while the discussion was meant to focus on the military, the guest makes reference to general policing in several analogies. In hindsight, clarification of the important distinctions between military combat and policing as well as a clear condemnation of unlawful killings by police is necessary.   We are also reflecting on how we can better hold our guests accountable for the ideas they present in these interviews.

As editor and producer of The Thoughtful Counselor, I and our team of contributors are committed to critically reflecting on our work to ensure the messages we are promoting do not implicitly or explicitly support or justify systemic racism and police brutality.

– Mike Shook


About this Episode:

Aaron speaks with Colonel Dave Grossman on the psychological effects of combat and lawful-killing and outlines the strengths that Veterans and service people possess that mental health professionals should seek to make use of throughout the therapeutic process.


About Dave:

Grossman is one of the world’s leading experts on the psychology of combat and lawful-killing, known widely for his international best-selling books On Killing and On Combat. He is an Army Ranger, paratrooper, and a former West Point Psychology Professor. He has a Black Belt in Hojutsu, the martial art of the firearm, and has been inducted into the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame.

Col. Grossman has testified before the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Congress, and numerous state legislatures.  He has served as an expert witness and consultant in state and Federal courts.  He helped train mental health professionals after the Jonesboro school massacre, and he was also involved in counseling or court cases in the aftermath of the Paducah, Springfield, Littleton and Nickel Mines Amish school massacres.

Col. Grossman spends approximately 300 days a year instructing military special forces operators and law enforcement personnel on the neurophysiology and psychology of combat and killing. He has been called upon to write the entry on “Aggression and Violence” in the Oxford Companion to American Military History, three entries in the Academic Press Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace and Conflict and has presented papers before the national conventions of the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Links and References

Links, References, and Resources:

Grossman, D. (2009). On killing: The psychological cost of learning to kill in war and society. New York, NY: Back Bay Books.

Grossman, D. & Christensen, L. (2012). On combat: The psychology and physiology of deadly conflict in war and peace. Mascoutah, IL: Killology Research Group, LLC.

Asken, M., Grossman D., & Christensen, L. (2017). Warrior mindset: Mental toughness skills for a nation’s peacekeepers. Mascoutah, IL: Killology Research Group, LLC.

Miller, L., & Cunningham, K. (2010). Secrets of mental marksmanship. Boulder, CO: Paladin Press.

Grossman, D. & Rogish, S. (2017). Sheepdogs: Meet our nation’s warriors. Mascoutah, IL: Killology Research Group, LLC.


The APA Citation for this Episode:

Smith, A. (Producer). (2019, January 10). EP110: The Psychology of Combat and (Lawful) Killing – A Conversation with West Point Professor Lt Col. Dave Grossman [Audio Podcast]. The Thoughtful Counselor. Retrieved from


Thanks to the Following:

Aaron Barnaby on Unsplash

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