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]
What you need to know about confidentiality: when you have it, when you don’t.
I’ve been blogging about police and first responders with Psychology Today for a couple of years. My most popular post was about cops and PTSD. On the first day of 2021, I saw a comment on that post made in response to an earlier comment left by a reader who had clearly been through a lot in his time as a cop.
“…therapists are not your friend and really could care less about you as a person. Never ever talk to them. They are liberal scumbags or they wouldn’t be in that career. Rely on close friends.”
I can only imagine the writer of this unpleasant comment has been somehow harmed by an incompetent therapist. I’m sorry for that. Just like cops, therapists range from great to ghastly. And just like cops, it isn’t fair to paint us all with the same brush.
So, how do you find a therapist you can trust if you need one? Not because you’re broken and need fixing, but because the psychological strain of working as a cop in a pandemic and a wave of anti-police sentiment may be causing you or your family problems or triggering old issues.
In a previous blog post, I wrote about the reason cops are resistant to consult a clinician. Top of the list were understandable concerns about confidentiality. So here are some things you need to know about the protections and limitations of the client/therapist relationship. [READ MORE]
Wisdom from a pioneer cop about connecting to your family during hard times.
Dr. Al Benner was a retired police captain, a pioneer in police psychology, co-founder of the West Coast Trauma Retreat for first responders with traumatic stress, and a mentor to many “cop docs” who followed him into psychology. He was also my friend.
Al died of cancer in 2009. He wrote the following words a long time ago. I repeat them here, in this time of turmoil and social unrest, because they are as true today as they ever were.
“To function effectively in our job, you must annihilate, smother, and suppress normal emotions like fear, anger, revulsion, and even compassion. To do otherwise is to invite overwhelming doubt or hesitancy when decisive action is required. The penalty for your achieved competence is a mindset that might as well be a foreign language to your social contemporaries. We are…victims of our own success. When these same normal and appropriate emotions…surface in personal relationship, we automatically shut down and wonder why, over time, the people we care about the most complain that we are aloof, cold, and uncommunicative.”
The key to riding out the current wave of bitterness and division is to stay connected to your friends and families. To do this, many of you have to stop doing what you have previously done (or been taught to do) to manage strong emotions; suck it up, withdraw, isolate, and push away the very people who can help you. Many of you are angry. Many of you feel betrayed and helpless. Your family feels these things too, but not in the same way you do, unless they’re also cops. Take the time to listen. Don’t dismiss them, discount their feelings, or offer false … [READ MORE]
We’re facing an onslaught of acute stressors, living through a global pandemic, deep divisions within society, the devastating impact of wildfires and floods, and the ripening of election-related angst.
Americans across society are feeling a depth of trauma that is familiar for many of our nation’s veterans and first responders. If you’ve been eagerly anticipating sudden and sustained relief from your strongest negative emotions should the election have gone your way — that’s a mirage.
Regardless of how events unfold in the months to come, the fact remains that a majority of people in our society hold deep fear about the future. Nearly half of the country will continue to feel this way after the election, even if there is a smooth transition of power. Some may express this fear through anger — the go-to emotion for many people — and others will become depressed.
The talented Rebecca Grondel, MA delivers another important and relevant Law Enforcement Family Network Flashlight Series video on the vulnerable emotions that drive anger. Please take a few minutes today and learn about the “Anger Iceberg”
If you haven’t done it yet, be sure to register for the Law Enforcement Family Network Virtual Conference on Janaury 8-9, 2021. Registration can be found on our events page!
Dr Stephanie Conn, the founder of First Responder Psychology in Beaverton Oregon, and author of the book, “Increasing Resilience in Police and Emergency Personnel.” highlights some of the specific benefits of a treatment method called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing).
This treatment method is very effective for dealing with significant and accumulative trauma, with the added benefit of having no physiological side effects.
Dr Conn mentions a link in her Flashlight episode and you may find more information about EMDR HERE or another resource HERE