By Ellen Kirschman, Ph.D.
Therapy won’t make you perfect, but it will help you live a wiser, happier life.
In my last post, I wrote that fear about confidentiality is high on the list of reasons cops don’t reach out for help. But there are other reasons like stigma, shame, or the distorted belief that only weak people have problems. Here’s what I know after 40 years of counseling LEOs: to need help is to be human, not weak. And problems are more easily borne when shared with someone you trust.
Police work is hard, always has been. And it’s getting harder all the time. Being a cop will change you. How could it not given that most cops will see more cruelty and tragedy in the first few years of their career than the rest of us will see in a lifetime. But—I want to shout this at the top of my lungs— it doesn’t have to damage you. Not if you learn to protect yourself and your family, and live with resilience. What does resilience mean? It means the ability to struggle well and bounce back in the face of adversity. This is different from those familiar, yet faulty notions of invulnerability, self-sufficiency, and rugged individualism that run rampant throughout law enforcement culture.
As a cop, you are probably a natural self-reliant, problem solver who is reluctant to burden others with your problems. Certainly, you prefer to talk things over with a peer or a family member before going to a “shrink.” You might even talk yourself out of going for help by worrying that you are making things worse than they really are, your problems are trivial compared to others, and you don’t want to burden the therapist who will probably run from the room the minute you start telling it like it is. This kind of stinky self-talk is like losing the pain in your tooth on the way to the dentist. Rest assured, the pain will come back, only now you need a new tooth and antibiotics instead of a simple filling.
Why to go? Some people start therapy because they are interested in personal growth. Others start because [READ MORE]