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Obstacles to Seeking Help: The Ugly Shrink

LEO’s and therapists are often at odds with each other. There are many reasons for this. For starters, members of both professions profess to have special, or even “secret” knowledge and understanding about human nature and deviant behavior. Each feels that their approach and the philosophy behind it are correct and the other’s is wrong. I’ve been on both sides, and heard the comments.

Therapists are gullible, bleeding hearts, snobs, stuck-up, and worse,defense attorney’s hired guns who may get criminals off. Clinical social workers who, like me have a two years masters degree that includes two internships, provide more than half the outpatient psychotherapy, are seen as, well, social workers. Therapists tend to view the police as unsophisticated, authoritarian and lacking in empathy. So on the one hand you have the cops seeing the shrinks as ignorant stuffed shirts and on the other you have the shrinks seeing the cops as immature thrill seekers or in the worst stereotypical fashion.

It’s quite possible that prior to needing counseling, your only direct contact with a psychotherapist was in court where they were testify about how some scumbag’s so-called diminished capacity or deprived childhood excused his horrendous crime. (An aside: this is insulting to the vast majority of people with diminished capacity and bad childhoods who don’t commit crimes.) I’m not sure whether cops view such hired gun experts as one step above or below defense attornies.

Correction officers who work on a daily basis with therapists, mostly social workers, many of whom aren’t well-trained, often view them as obstacles to the performance of their job. I hear of many instances of decisions to put an inmate in isolation or restraints being overturned by social workers, sometimes within the hour. Obviously this doesn’t enhance the CO’s credibility with the inmates.

Let’s face it, with your experience with mental health professionals who are working in and around the criminal justice system, it is obvious why you think they want to “coddle criminals”.

Law enforcement is a profession similar to the military in that it straddles the line between a white collar profession and a blue collar job. Ironically, sometimes officers literally wear white and blue shirts depending on their rank, and when they go to court it’s strictly suit and tie. Officers proudly refer to their profession as “the job”. Indeed, the essence of your work is getting the job done.

By and large, LEO’s are down-to-earth unpretentious folks who can’t stand stuck-up jerks. I’ve known more than my share of flaky, money grubbing, yuppie, phony, naive, liberal do-gooder shrinks; and I can see why none of you would want to open up and talk about your problems with them.

Is either “side” to blame for this us against them mentality?

First, you guys. Well, a few of you do tend to be a bit too macho and hard nosed at times, and a few of you could be more tolerant, flexible and open-minded.

When it comes to the therapists, I’ve been shunned or ridiculed myself for my activities as a reserve and special police officer. I know from personal experience that many do look down on the police. I’ve heard them talk about them in disparaging terms, and I’ve gotten wind of them talking about me behind my back the same way. At least my police and correction friends make fun of me for being a shrink to my face.

Because many therapists are “control freaks” (you know what I mean), and may have been on the wrong end of a traffic stop or had another encounter with the police where they felt in a subservient position, they may take other opportunities to flaunt their expertise and power over you. There are those therapists who, if truth be told, figure you deserve all the police stress you get. This is especially exasperating when you have to suck up to them because you’ve been ordered to receive a “clean bill of health” from a shrink before you can go back to work.

Despite all of this, I do hope you keep an open mind when you are dealing with mental health professionals, especially if you have reached the point where you need help yourself. There are many therapists who devote their entire careers to helping crime victims, and who work aggressively with the police and prosecutors to make sure criminals get what’s coming to them. And there are a handful of therapists with police experience themselves, some like me have been reserve officers and a few are retired fulltime officers who went back to school. Within departments there are (and should be more) stress officers or peer police counselors, who have had special training.

If you ever need help you should shop for a police therapist they way you’d shop for a car. Do some research, ask your friends, take it for a test drive. Ask if the therapist specializes in police stress and police counseling. Ideally you’ll find a therapist who, at the least, has worked with law enforcement personnel before and taken the time and effort to do some ride-alongs and tour a prison. Once you meet with them, they should not be put off by your interviewing them. You want a therapist who is candid and not threatened by you, and especially one who talks. One of the most frequent complaints I hear about therapists is that “they just sat there and didn’t say anything”. In some ways you can view a good therapist as your personal highly confiential mental health consultant, as someone who has “heard it all” and had many other officers turn to them for help.

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