The following paper employs a variety of research articles and sources to better understand the influence of traumatic events on the wellbeing of law enforcement officers. Additionally, the analysis will be conducted through a Christian perspective on the topic in segments in which it is relevant. This is largely due to better ascertaining the scope of trauma and post-traumatic stress received in the workplace through a diversified psychological and philosophical scope. A common source of traumatic events that police officers experience are often instigated by acts of violence and violent crime.
Themes of traumatic events due to police work, post-traumatic stress, and post-traumatic growth will be deeply analyzed within the paper in order to discern pattern-like motions within the crisis of officers that experience such issues. Works such as the research piece by Chopko et al. (2019) evaluate and observe post-traumatic growth with the severity and frequency of officers experiencing trauma as a variable. A deeper understanding of the sources of post-traumatic symptoms can illustrate the ways in which psychological and physical wellbeing is affected by such incidents. Frequency and severity are especially relevant measurements as they can indicate the likely impact on future officers. Further, the Chrisitan perspective will commonly surface throughout the paper as it is often implemented in post-traumatic growth and associated with the ways that some officers cope with traumatic incidents. Initially, the following work will focus on defining traumatic events, post-traumatic stress, effects on law enforcement, and the Christian perspective concerning these issues.
The presence of post-traumatic stress indicators in police officers is always preceded by exposure to traumatic events. Though there is no clear and decisive method for linking such incidents with the exact severity of post-traumatic stress, violent crimes and dangerous incidents are likely to exacerbate trauma-associated behavior. A study that included 681 police officers analyzed the ways in which pre, mid, and post-traumatic risk factors manifested (Ellrich & Baier, 2017). The group of people questioned had experienced violent assault at some point within their careers. Their indicators of traumatic risk factors, such as trauma severity, social support, and psychological adjustment, were analyzed in accordance with their symptoms of post-traumatic stress. The study indicated a likelihood of preparatory and follow-up sessions, colleague support, and other functions being able to decrease symptoms of post-traumatic stress in victimized officers.
Essentially, the study indicated that severe and violent trauma received by officers within the field could have a detrimental and proportional impact on their wellbeing and post-traumatic stress symptoms. However, a variety of coping methods that are achieved either through professionals, family, friends, or colleagues can assist with reducing indicators of post-traumatic stress. This becomes especially relevant in incidents in which officers may also be having legal issues or limitations, which can become an additional source of anxiety (Costanzo & Krauss, 2020). The Christian perspective becomes relevant here as a number of officers may choose religious or philosophical modes of coping in cases of such events.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders
Post-traumatic stress has the potential to become a disorder, which directly affects the mental wellbeing of officers adversely. Not only are police officers at higher risk of being exposed to trauma and post-traumatic stress in the field than community members, but they also have a greater chance of coming into contact with individuals with mental illness (Soomro & Yanos, 2018). Experiencing harm or observing harm brought unto others is one of the primary effects of post-traumatic stress among police employees. Similarly, the death of either co-workers or civilians has even more detrimental results on wellbeing.
Prior studies have even implemented hybrids of ecological-ethical approaches to traumatized officers as a method of coping and achieving post-traumatic growth. This is a fact that is relevant as it establishes the applicability of diverse and belief-based techniques of coping with trauma (Leppma et al., 2017). Since the following paper focuses on the implementation of the Christian worldview and its effects on post-traumatic stress, its validity as a method will be judged similarly. The behavioral, affective, emotive, cognitive, and existential aspects among traumatized officers are quite widely ranged and deeply ingrained within post-traumatic indicators (Rudofossi, 2020). As such, the clinical application of what may still be theoretical approaches, such as the eco-ethical method, is vital to the exploration of the specific post-traumatic symptoms in case-by-case incidents of traumatic encounters among the police. While certain indicators may be universal among victimized officers, approaches to coping and growth can be vastly different.
The primary definition of post-traumatic growth, or PTG, includes a number of positive behaviors or changes within the mental capacities of an individual following traumatic events. Essentially, it states that high challenging and stressful life circumstances have the potential to enforce beneficial responses or behaviors among individuals. Among police officers, this sort of effect is largely dictated by the severity and frequency of experiencing stress, especially in relation to violent crime. Even outside immediate or deeply traumatizing events, officers are often subjected to other stressors that can be reflective of both life and work-related matters. While legal or economic stressors may not be direct causes of post-traumatic stress, they likely contribute to an ongoing set of stress indicators (Lees, 2018). As such, both extreme and other elements of traumatic stress have the potential to instill PTG among police officers.
Measurement tools such as the Critical Incident History Questionnaire allow researchers the ability to estimate the impact of both trauma and post-traumatic growth as a result of severity and frequency of exposure. Despite this, it is rarely implemented in the analysis of post-traumatic growth alongside health variables and non-trauma-related stress, such as relationship or subjective pressure. Similarly, a difference can be seen between cognitive and behavioral PTG, as both manifest different indicators in an individual’s wellbeing.
While no universal and decisive evidence has yet been found in order to explain the relationship between severity, frequency, and post-traumatic growth, hints of the link have emerged in certain studies. For instance, idiosyncratic perspectives of trauma severity alongside personal experiences had a strong influence on PTG among respondents (Chopko et al., 2019). Certain adverse negatives, such as alcohol consumption and use, did not depict associations with PTG. As such, this may suggest that the contribution of healthy coping mechanisms can allow officers to experience PTG despite the trauma that may be considered too severe or frequent. This becomes relevant for officers that find Christian practices or counseling to be suitable methods for coping. Continuous research is essential in better comprehending the relationship between alternative coping and treatment strategies and traumatic experiences.
Impact of Post Traumatic Growth
In order to fully understand the value of exploring post-traumatic growth among victimized officers, it is vital to identify the positive impacts of the process. It is also essential to recognize that only indirect or unintended trauma has the potential to be treated as a component of post-traumatic growth. Workplace trauma as a result of violence or disaster is not limited to police officers but to a number of other careers that have high exposure to incidents that may induce trauma. A number of factors in behavioral and cognitive functions can develop among ambulance personnel, first responders, firefighters, and police officers after exposure to traumatic events. From those that are associated with positive post-traumatic growth resilience, personal resources, health organizational environments, high collaboration, integration, and sufficient social support are the most prominent (Kang et al., 2018). This becomes incredibly important as the relationship between traumatic events and growth has been established. However, growth is also deeply associated with effective coping and treatment strategies.
As such, Christian worldview-centered counseling has the potential to provide such aspects of growth, though exact results cannot be provided as research on the topic is limited. Despite this, trauma counseling through Chrisitan communities and counseling can be investigated in order to observe the presence of post-traumatic growth. Currently, the most prominent aspects of PTG can be summarized as having substantial social support, effective therapy and treatment, and the development of cognitive schemes that allow the traumatized individual to obtain a new life perspective. Additionally, emotional intelligence and vocational calling also have the potential to increase alongside post-traumatic growth among police officers (Lee, 2017). While Christian-oriented treatment does provide the aforementioned components in theory, further investigation is necessary to ascertain whether it has the ability to provide officers with post-traumatic growth.
Christian Worldview and Trauma
While it is challenging to find direct references to what is now known as post-traumatic stress within the Bible, remarks concerning trauma treatment through faith can be observed repeatedly. Concepts that are profound within Christian communities, such as ‘holy noticing’ are especially relevant to the topic of trauma treatment. ‘Holy noticing’ refers to a process similar to mindfulness in other religions or ideologies, such as Buddhism or New age practices (Judge, 2021). It defines a procedure in which an individual becomes aware of their present state and comes to terms with both their emotions, thoughts and the world. The ways in which ‘holy noticing’ differs is in the relation of such a state of awareness to their faith of Chrisitan theology. According to a number of psalms, the Bible had nearly direct references to such ‘holy noticing’, such as through the statement “search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts” (Psalm 139: 23–24). The following statement can emerge within both Christian counselings as well as individual practice.
Essentially, while it is not direct treatment, officers who have experienced trauma and are devout to the Christian faith may benefit from Biblical assurance. Similarly, “finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy— think about such things” can be utilized by traumatized individuals in formulating their new life perspective that was mentioned prior (Philippians 4: 8). The formulation of the new life perspective is a primary component of post-traumatic growth, and for officers that are religious, the inclusion of the teachings of their faith are likely to play an essential role.
Christian Worldview and Trauma Coping Methods
While the general inclusion of Chrisitan belief may be essential to the post-traumatic growth of victimized officers, it is also vital to observe the characteristics of Christian counseling that currently exists for those exposed to trauma. Christian sources categorize complex trauma disorders and stress through a number of factors, including issues with emotional regulation, issues in the perception of others, distorted self-perception, physical problems, and relational difficulties. These issues can manifest as overwhelming or lacking emotions, extreme shame, distrust of co-dependence on family or friends, fear of intimacy, and other challenges. As such, most Christian counseling of individuals experiencing trauma focus on these issues and their interpretation through the Christian faith.
In the cases in which Christian counseling is effective, elements of psychological studies and fundamentals are still present. Some Christians may be skeptical of concepts of dissociation in the case in which traumatized officers may show signs of being unable to integrate multiple aspects of their identity. However, Christian counselors are often able to introduce such scientific components of trauma in a way that is clear and relatable to patients (Gingrich, 2021). Additionally, counselors introduce the idea that full integration may often be impossible or unnecessary in the case of traumatized police officers. Some proponents of Christian counseling, which connects the religious aspects of the theology with scientific practices of post-traumatic stress coping, may seem foreign to Christians but essential to the wellbeing of the affected. The interaction between such counseling and the post-traumatic growth of an affected officer, therefore, depends on their ability to integrate their religion with more clinical practices.
As such, like most coping methods and treatment procedures of complex trauma, Christian counseling is subject to both drawbacks and advantages. The ability to implement this form of counseling allows the instigation of three distinct steps to post-traumatic growth. Initially, it establishes trust-building between the affected officer and the counselor. This is followed by the focus of dissociated memories and intense emotions. Lastly, a new way of life is designed between the patient and the counselor. As such, the counseling strategies directly align with the aforementioned positive impacts of post-traumatic growth, including the building of social support, reaffirming one’s identity, and formulating a new perspective of life.
However, the counseling method is also subject to a number of drawbacks. If the counselor is unable to successfully link the Christian faith with therapeutic methods of treatment, the affected officer may be unable to overcome their skepticism. Similarly, the reliance on only faith may be ineffective in addressing the core issues of trauma. While the method has the potential to be effective, it is largely reliant on the ability of both the counselor and the patient to reach a balance of faith and practical treatment.
Trauma and post-traumatic stress among police officers are affected by the severity and frequency of traumatic experiences. There has also been a link found between post-traumatic growth and such exposure, ascertaining certain developments such as better coworking settings, resilience, and coping with stress. However, these may only come as a result of healthy trauma treatment and counseling. The paper assessed the effectiveness of Chrisitan-centered counseling and treatment within such cases of patients affected with complex trauma. Though the conclusion is not definitive and the topic requires further research, effective implementation of Christian counseling has the potential to introduce post-traumatic growth among police officers that are followers of the Christian worldview.
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