Occupational vulnerability for psychologists

Overcoming Forensic Psychology Stereotypes in Policing


Reactions to stressful situations can lead to physiological, mental, and emotional changes. In the early 1930s, Dr. Hans Selye (1978) documented a “stress response” that is experienced by the body because of stress. As a person deals with a stressful situation, the brain responds to perceived danger by producing chemicals that prepare the body to react to that danger. Physical readiness for a stress response involves an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, increase in perspiration, and pupil dilation. At the same time, emotions can run high with feelings of fear, irritability, anxiety, and/or worry. Mentally, responses can include irrational thoughts that lead to depression, anxiety, and physiological problems. If a person perceives events as continuing to be dangerous, this physical and emotional state will be maintained and the individual’s immunity will suffer; severe illness could result. According to Selye (1978), the body cannot withstand the stress response for too long, and will suffer by wearing itself down.

Police professionals encounter stressful situations daily, simply because of the unpredictability of events that occur and the subsequent danger they often face. Therefore, the police professional may remain in a sustained physiological state of stress, feeling anxious about possible injury or death, and having thoughts of impending disaster. Police professionals may try to cope with this stress by engaging in destructive behaviors that may increase stress and produce additional problems. Forensic police professionals can provide prevention and intervention programs to assist police professionals in developing and improving coping strategies to deal with sustained stress. You might imagine that utilizing available resources and addressing these issues would be common sense and common practice. However, despite the continued stress police professionals experience and the availability of services to mitigate the consequences, many do not take advantage of these services. Stereotypes about psychological services and a lack of protection for personal privacy are pervasive in the policing community. Regardless of what police organization you may work for as a forensic psychology professional, you are bound to face a number of stereotypes and challenges that make it difficult to assist police professionals. Couple this with ethical issues that arise while working with police professionals, and you can understand the necessity for forensic psychology professionals to be informed, prepared, and armed with strategies in their “toolbox” to address these challenges and issues.

To prepare for this Discussion:

• Review the following articles and think about the challenges and stereotypes forensic psychology professionals must overcome when encouraging police professionals to use psychological resources.

• “Law Enforcement Preferences for PTSD Treatment and Crisis Management Alternatives”

• “Characterizing Perceived Police Violence: Implications for Public Health”

• “Helping First Responders Withstand Traumatic Experiences”

• “The Effectiveness of Individual Wellness Counseling on the Wellness of Law Enforcement Officers”

• Review the “Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychologists.” Consider the guidelines that are relevant to forensic psychology professionals providing support and interventions to police professionals.

• Review the book excerpt, “Confidentiality of Psychological Information and the HIPAA in Police Psychology.” Think about the ethical guidelines and issues forensic psychology professionals could face when providing support and interventions to police professionals.

• Select two challenges that forensic psychology professionals face when encouraging police professionals to utilize available psychological support and interventions. Consider how you would address these challenges.

• Select one ethical issue related to forensic psychology professionals providing support and interventions to police professionals. Think about the ethical guidelines that could apply to this issue.

With these thoughts in mind:

Post by Day 3 a brief description of two challenges faced by forensic psychology professionals when encouraging police professionals to utilize available psychological support and interventions. Explain how you would address these challenges. Then, analyze one ethical issue that the forensic psychology professional could encounter when providing psychological support and interventions. Be specific and cite the applicable ethical guidelines.

Learning Resources


Book Excerpt: Rostow, C. D., & Davis, R. D. (2004). Confidentiality of psychological information and the HIPAA in police psychology. In C. D. Rostow & R. D. Davis (Eds.), Handbook for psychological fitness-for-duty evaluations in law enforcement (pp. 161–177). Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press.

Article: Adams, R. E., Boscarino, J. A., & Figley, C. R. (2006). Compassion fatigue and psychological distress among social workers: A validation study. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 76(1), 103–108. Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.

Article: American Psychology-Law Society, Division 41 of the American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Speciality guidelines for forensic psychologists. Retrieved from http://ap-ls.org/aboutpsychlaw/SpecialtyGuidelines.php

Article: Barnett, J. E., Baker, E. K., Elman, N. S., & Schoener, G. R. (2007). In pursuit of wellness: The self-care imperative. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 38(6), 603–612. Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.

Article: Barnett, J. E. (n.d.). Psychological wellness and self-care as an ethical imperative. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/careers/early-career/psychological-wellness.pdf

Article: Black Becker, C., Meyer, G., Price, J. S., Graham, M. M., Arsena, A., Armstrong, D. A., & Ramon, E. (2009). Law enforcement preferences for PTSD treatment and crisis management alternatives. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 47(3), 245-253. Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.

Article: Board of Professional Affairs’ Advisory Committee on Colleague Assistance. (n.d.). Professional health and well-being for psychologists. Retrieved from http://www.apapracticecentral.org/ce/self-care/well-being.aspx

Article: Chard, K. M., Cooper, L., et. al. (2005). Risk factors and self care for practitioners working with trauma clients. Retrieved from http://www.apapracticecentral.org/ce/self-care/trauma-clients.aspx

Article: Cooper, H., Moore, L., Gruskin, S., & Krieger, N. (2004). Characterizing perceived police violence: Implications for public health. American Journal of Public Health, 94(7), 1109–1118. Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.

Article: Heglund, J. (2009). Helping first responders withstand traumatic experiences. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 78(9), 1–4. Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.

Article: Saakvitne, K., et. al. (n.d.). Occupational vulnerability for psychologists. Retrieved from http://www.apapracticecentral.org/ce/self-care/vulnerability.aspx

Article: Tanigoshi, H., Kontos, A. P., & Remley, T. P., Jr. (2008). The effectiveness of individual wellness counseling on the wellness of law enforcement officers. Journal of Counseling & Development, 86(1), 64-74. Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.

Optional Resources

Book: Selye, H. (1978). The stress of life (2nd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.


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