Law Enforcement

Home » Who I Work With » Law Enforcement

Psychological Services for Law Enforcement Officers

I have been working with law enforcement personnel since I started my private practice in 1981. 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

In addition to providing psychological services to law enforcement personnel generally, I also have specialized expertise in providing psychological evaluations, psychotherapy, and expert testimony to law enforcement officers who have been in critical job-related incidents.

Law enforcement work brings officers into contact with some extremely intense adverse events, including those that threaten an officer’s survival, or that of other people present at the scene. Many officers experience multiple adverse events of lesser magnitude each week. Exposure to highly intense adverse events or to an accumulation of smaller traumatic incidents can create a stress overload. Stress overload in law enforcement officers can lead to depression, anxiety, symptoms of posttraumatic stress, intensified irritability and anger, relationship conflicts, and substance abuse.

I have accumulated decades of experience in evaluating and treating law enforcement officers who want to work through their reactions to job-related critical events. I treat all the conditions listed above, with the exception of substance abuse. Officers who have concerns about their use of substances are referred to substance abuse treatment programs for a specialized evaluation.

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.

Sandra K. Pinches, Ph.D.

I have specialized expertise in evaluating and treating law enforcement officers who have killed someone in the line of duty. Media coverage of officer-involved shootings seldom focuses attention on the distress that many officers experience following these incidents. Painful feelings about having taken a life are very common in police officers, and some develop persistent depression, guilt, decreased self-esteem, and symptoms of PTSD. The level of distress can be even greater in situations involving deaths of people who were minors, female, or most tragically, unintended victims. I am familiar with the wide range of feelings officers experience after deadly force encounters, and can help officers move through them.

Other Sources of Police Work Stress

Although intense traumatic incidents can powerfully affect an officer’s subsequent health and life, they are not common. Law enforcement personnel say that they feel more stressed by conflicting expectations within their agencies and communities regarding how they should do their jobs. Personnel at all levels fear attracting negative media attention or becoming targets of criminal charges or lawsuits as a result of decisions they made while doing their jobs.

Another potential source of both stress and support is the officer’s family life. Police officers seek counseling for the same kinds of relationship problems that cause distress for Americans generally. Law enforcement work brings with it relationship stressors that have to be managed by an officer’s entire family. These stressors range from late shift work that separates officers from family life, to spouses’ fears about the dangers of the job, to the intense adrenalin-induced states officers sometimes bring home with them. Officers sometimes limit communication with spouses out of a desire to protect their families and themselves from bringing home disturbing aspects of their work. These well-intentioned efforts actually reduce the level of closeness in the relationship as well as reducing support for the officer.

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, but if officers become ill they often want to learn better ways to manage stress.  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 proud to be known within the local law enforcement community as an advocate and therapist of choice for police officers and their families.