Dr. Saxe-Clifford will attempt to answer as many general questions as possible.    NO Personal Advice

Mandatory Counseling

Why did my department send me to a psychologist after a shooting when I did not hit anyone and I was fine?

Most law enforcement agencies have a policy of sending officers for mandatory counseling/evaluation after involvement in a critical incident. A critical incident is sometimes defined as a shooting only involving the officer(s) who fired a weapon, but most often all officers directly involved in the incident are referred. Sometimes an officer not in a position to take action may be as effected by the incident as much or more than an officer who shoots.

I advise law enforcement agencies to refer officers for a posttraumatic incident interview when they are involved in any incident that is above and beyond what officers usually face. Referrals are mandatory because many officers would not attend otherwise. Making the referrals for such incidents routine and mandatory takes away any stigma that may otherwise be associated with being ordered to "see the shrink" after an incident.

Officers usually benefit from learning how to identify and deal with any emotional issues or symptoms that may develop in the short term or in the long term as a result of the incident.

Will I know the results of my psychological evaluation?

I am scheduled for a pre-employment exam for my law enforcement/probation officer/firefighter position. Will the doctor tell me at the end of the interview if I passed or failed?

It is unlikely that a psychologist will tell an applicant the results of the evaluation in any definite terms. Usually, the doctor needs time to review all the data. Sometimes a discussion with the background investigator after the interview points out discrepancies or new information that needs to be incorporated into the evaluation. The purpose of the evaluation is to provide information to the hiring authority, not to the applicant. However, I think most applicants have a sense of how the evaluation went. For example, if the doctor spends a lot of time discussing the applicant's drinking pattern or unstable job history, the applicant should be aware that there are areas of concern.

How do I become a police psychologist?

There are not enough professionals heading towards a career in police psychology to fulfill the need in this growing field. As a result, you may find a lot of opportunity in the future of police psychology. Since there are not any programs specifically designed for police psychology yet, I suggest pursuing an MA or Ph.D. in psychology and focus on developing good basic clinical skills working with adults. Try to do internships that offer short term counseling to help build your resume. Learn about psychometrics and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Focus term papers and research on police psychology. Read all the related literature you can find. In addition, you should try to get involved in local law enforcement. Volunteering is a great way to expose you to the world of police officers. Some people go so far as to attend a reserve police academy, but that is not necessary.

How much do I share with my spouse?

Is it better to tell my spouse about my workday or spare the details of the negative things I see? Should I protect my spouse and keep him/her from worrying about me?

Each relationship is different and law enforcement families handle this issue in many ways. The important thing is to discuss the issues openly and decide together how much is best shared. In any approach, it is important for both the officer and the spouse to have the ability to talk about how they feel and to ask for and receive support when needed.

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