Therapy for Law Enforcement: How Cops Can Benefit from Therapy

It’s no surprise that police officers and other law enforcement officials encounter high-stress levels on the job. According to a 2015 study, on average, law enforcement officers in the U.S. experience 188 critical incidents throughout their careers.

In response to traumatic events, many officers develop harmful coping mechanisms, and some members of law enforcement may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other co-occurring mental health conditions. Additional factors, such as organizational stress, mental health stigma, and a lack of mental health literacy, can also lead to the development of mental health symptoms and unhealthy coping strategies.

Over time, trauma can begin to impact the health and lives of law enforcement officers. However, healing from trauma is possible with the help of psychotherapy. Here’s how talk therapy can help you overcome trauma and make positive changes in your mental wellness.

improving mental health for law enforcement

Law Enforcement Mental Health Challenges

Trauma is an emotional response to a traumatic event, such as the loss of life or a car accident. While shock and denial are normal responses following a traumatic experience, long-term reactions may include flashbacks, mood swings, nightmares, and uncomfortable physical symptoms.

Some common examples of trauma that many police officers may experience include:

  • Facing dangerous situations, such as shootings or car chases
  • Experiencing violent crimes, such as domestic violence
  • Dealing with criminals that might be armed
  • Working on a crisis intervention team
  • Accidentally or purposefully killing another person
  • Witnessing the death of a coworker

Although mental health problems might leave you feeling isolated, help is always available. According to the PEW Trust, 7–19 percent of police officers in the U.S. report experiencing mental health symptoms, although mental health issues are likely significantly underreported among law enforcement. Treating trauma through psychotherapy, empathy, and compassion can lead to greater healing for police officers, their families, and communities.

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How does psychotherapy treat trauma?

Trauma is real, and psychotherapy is the first step toward feeling better. Several types of therapy effectively treat trauma, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Although therapy sessions might seem like hard work, the only way to manage trauma and its effects is to treat it.

According to the World Health Organization, stress management techniques and healthy coping mechanisms can help individuals immediately respond to trauma. In particular, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) can effectively treat post-traumatic stress disorder and co-occurring mental health problems, including family conflicts and substance use. Couples therapy, family therapy, and other treatment modalities can also supplement individual psychotherapy.

To make the most out of counseling, it’s essential to find a psychotherapist you feel comfortable with. According to the American Psychological Association, your therapeutic relationship—the relationship between you and your psychotherapist—can have a significant impact on your mental health outcomes. The best therapists will help you explore different types of therapy, express a willingness to listen, and provide empathy throughout the therapeutic process.

Therapy for Law Enforcement Officers

Trauma and PTSD are human experiences. If you’re experiencing specific challenges or mental health problems, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help.

If you’re hesitant to reach out for help due to stigma, online therapy might be the option. Online therapy uses HIPAA-compliant technology to connect prospective clients with social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, family therapists, and counselors. Online counseling also offers access to a wider range of mental health counselors, so that you can find a good fit for your specific needs.

To find the right therapist, reach out to a mental health professional through The Therapy Group of NYC. Whether you’re experiencing emotional problems, coping with a medical condition, or navigating relationship issues, we’ll connect you to a licensed therapist based on your personal preferences and requirements. One of our compassionate, experienced mental health professionals will help you learn healthy ways to cope with trauma and navigate challenging situations.

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