Psychological Services for Law Enforcement Officers

For twenty-five years, police officers and their families have made up a significant percentage of my caseload. Officers from local, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies seek my help with a variety of issues, some related to their work and others of a more general personal nature. I find my work with police officers to be consistently interesting and rewarding, and I always look forward to meeting new clients from police families.

Critical Incidents and PTSD

I provide psychological evaluations, psychotherapy, and expert testimony to law enforcement officers who have been in traumatic incidents and need to be evaluated or treated for posttraumatic stress.

No matter what they want to talk to me about, officers and their family members express appreciation for my familiarity with law enforcement work and how it affects their lives.

In recent years we have learned a great deal about what causes PTSD and how to treat it. We can usually reduce or eliminate the intrusion of traumatic imagery, memories, and emotions into daily awareness, and the recurrence of traumatic dreams into sleep cycles. We have a number of effective strategies for treating symptoms of hyperarousal, such as insomnia and irritability, and symptoms of hypervigilance, such as excessive preoccupation with present and future dangers. Even those officers who have had PTSD for many years, caused by multiple traumatic incidents, can now hope for recovery or significant improvement in their post traumatic lives.

Unfortunately, much less professional attention has been paid to the guilt, shame, and self-esteem problems experienced by some officers who have killed another person in the line of duty. Painful feelings about having taken a life are very common in police officers and combat veterans who have PTSD, and I have worked with many people whose lives were deeply affected by the experience of killing someone. I am an expert in the psychological evaluation and treatment of police officers and veterans who have posttraumatic reactions to their use of deadly force.

Other Sources of Police Work Stress

Although traumatic incidents can powerfully affect an officer’s subsequent health and life, they are not common. Law enforcement personnel say that they feel far more stressed on a daily basis by conflicting expectations within their agencies and communities regarding how they should do their jobs. In urban police departments and federal agencies the job responsibilities of managers and street officers are quite dissimilar, and attract different kinds of people. Personnel at all levels, however, fear attracting negative media attention and becoming a target of lawsuits.

Another potential source of both stress and support is the officer’s family life. Like most of my other clients, police officers frequently consult me about relationship problems. Marriages may be stressed by the nature of an officers’ work, or by agencies that fail to support a healthy balance between work and family commitments. Officers often like to preserve their family life as a sanctuary from the disturbing things they see on the job, especially if they are married to civilians. They may limit communication by avoiding talk about work, may overprotect their children, and worry excessively about all their family members. Some officers have difficulty relaxing their guard, or surrendering their command role, and behave too defensively or offensively at home.

The nature of operational police work increases the risk of stress-related illnesses and physical injuries. These risks generally do not deter people who are drawn to law enforcement occupations, most of whom are athletic individuals who like stimulation. After becoming ill, however, officers are frequently interested in learning better ways to manage stress. Injuries sometimes lead to chronic physical problems, and psychological issues associated with losses of physical abilities. Many law enforcement officers come to therapy because they want to learn how to take better care of themselves physically and emotionally.

If You Want to Talk

Law enforcement officers who think they might want to talk about a personal or work-related problem are encouraged to call and schedule an initial appointment with me. Police officers are generally good at sizing up other people and can decide fairly quickly whether they will feel comfortable with me. In turn, I can be counted upon to offer honest, direct feedback about how I can or cannot be helpful in a particular client’s situation. I am pleased to be known within the local law enforcement community as an advocate and therapist of choice for police officers.