What Happens When an Officer Is Ordered to Visit a Psychologist?

First responders often deal with some of the most traumatic events life has to offer. They are witness to the aftermath of violence, car accidents, fire, and many other things. Their goal is to keep everyone alive and support their team in securing the scene. All the while, they have to work hard to protect themselves, too. Unfortunately, police officers who are on the front line often suffer from secondary trauma, PTSD, and several other issues on the job. When they are ordered to visit the psychologist, it is for a specific reason. Find out why this happens and how to navigate this situation with a positive response.

Revealing Information

A first responder often goes to a psychologist following the reveal of mental health symptoms, difficulties with coping on the job, or significant events at work. While in the office, it is their chance to lay bare all the things they struggle with so they can do their job more effectively. Unfortunately, many first responders squander this opportunity. You may worry that you will end up revealing too much and get into trouble. If you have an addiction, you may worry about your job being on the line due to substance abuse issues. Giving up sensitive information should be safe, but there are instances of self-harm or harm to others when therapists take action as mandated reporters. Police psychologists are not there to cause trouble. They are available to process difficult situations and emotions healthily. You may also be evaluated for “fitness of duty,” if there are questions about this while on the job. 

Overcome a Barrier

Therapists may be seen as a threat by police officers or first responders. Because fitness of duty evaluations are there to determine if the person can keep working, officers sometimes choose to hold back. Unfortunately, this house of cards will eventually crumble. If you suffer from PTSD, depression, mental health issues, and physical health complications or substance use, it will show up in your work. Your commanding officers, supervisors, and colleagues may finally realize you have been less than truthful with the therapist. If you can open up honestly, you can stop lying about your reality and accept that you need help. Know that you are not going to lose your job if you seek appropriate help. 

Stepping Into Healing

The first steps inside may be intimidating. It may feel, especially for male officers, a sign that they are weak and vulnerable. When men think this way, they may act out in aggressive ways, becoming cold or unwilling to participate in the conversation. It can take time to warm up to someone asking how they “feel.” Those are not words cops are supposed to give into in their line of work. They are taught tactical, practical, logical ways of responding to unfolding events. If they have compassionate hearts, they are not to show it on the job unless called for in their line of work. It helps keep a mental distance from the work and their personal lives “off the clock.” Even so, it helps to be vulnerable enough to open up. Following those initial meetings, they may:

  • Get evaluated for mental fitness on the job
  • Get referred to treatment for issues they experience
  • Experience healing 

The trauma they face every day is not easy to overcome. It may be managed better than it can be fully healed. Substance use is not uncommon, but denial is equally prevalent. If a first responder can admit they have a problem, they can work to set up a space for treatment where they can continue to work and thrive in recovery. 

Saving Lives

Cops and police department professionals often struggle with mental health issues. It helps to have someone to unload on who will keep it in confidence. It also helps to know someone is truly on their side. It takes a while to build trust and rapport, so give it time. Don’t rush out of the office on your first visit, convinced they are incapable of helping. They likely are doing the best they can and need all the support they can get, as well. Their job is to keep officers safe so they can do their job correctly. With the right support, you can thrive in recovery from substance use, and get help for mental health issues. Thus begins the journey of healing and moving forward with a new focus in your life. 

Hope and Healing

Police officers may not realize how important it is to find a third party to talk to about their line of work. As hard as it is, it is easier than letting addiction ruin their lives and careers. It is best to work on healing, but it is not always possible to help a loved one see this for themselves. The work is hard, but so is watching a loved one languish and struggle. Help is available if you or a loved one are open to the journey of healing. 

Forge is a place to come and recover your life from addiction. We help you reimagine what is possible and create the life you’ve been dreaming of.

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