It is the mission of the Psychological Services Group to provide the first responder community and their employers with comprehensive, culturally competent, standard of care crisis consultation services. Our professional staff work from the basic premise that those who give their best deserve our best and we pledge our resources, energy and expertise in dedicated service to support and sustain the careers of the men and women who protect and serve our communities.
First responders encounter unique professional stressors. These professions require a person to possess a myriad of skills and personality traits and to use them in a variety of challenging and sometimes threatening situations. As a result there are many well-known statistics demonstrating the dramatic impact to first responders that have become known as the “cost of doing business” in this industry.
Fortunately, our understanding of the unique stresses and strains inherent in law enforcement has increased over the last couple of decades and several profession-specific protocols have been developed. Psychological services are essential for first responders, given the climate of this century, if an organization wishes to function in a way to safeguard the social, emotional and physical well being of its most important asset: its employees. In today’s financial and political climate of “less is more” career sustainability begins to fail as worker’s compensation, insufficient resources and public liability skyrocket. The Psychological Services Group can help you create programs and present trainings to combat liability related to personnel, increases employee effectiveness, as well as ensuring that your agency is able to meet the standard of care for your employees when a critical incident occurs.
Emergency services personnel are expected to make life and death decisions, with only seconds to assess the threat. Police officers routinely encounter belligerent, even dangerous individuals and are expected to stifle any of their own human reactions to scenes that involve the worst that humanity has to offer. They do all this on a daily basis in the context of their own lives and families. They are expected to listen patiently and react appropriately to the problems of a teenage child or the stresses of their own relationships. Family members are not exempt from the reality of the challenges encountered by the first responder. PSG offers expert and informed short-term counseling services for officers and their spouses.
PSG is exclusively dedicated to the needs of the first responder community. We are not an employee assistance program and do not supplant the standard services offered by these organizations. Indeed, The Psychological Services Group supplements the fairly generic offerings of most EAP services with profession appropriate, culturally competent crisis intervention and training.
In additional to offering a full complement of psychological services and consultation on an hourly basis, PSG also offers contract retainer based options that guarantee priority PSG availability, 24-hour-a-day access, reduced fee structures, and expanded services depending upon contracted hours and terms. These contract options work well for most agencies and allows for non-crisis consultation as the organization establishes their CISM programs. Other arrangements are available by agreement and are open to negotiation. Please feel free to contact Elizabeth Dansie of The Psychological Services Group for further information.
What We Do
The Psychological Services Group (PSG) offers a variety of services to agencies including:
- Critical Incident Response and Debriefings
- Development of Crisis Intervention and Peer Support Policies
- Selection, Training and Supervision of Peer Support Teams
- Trauma After-care to impacted personnel
- Short-term therapy services to officers and their spouses
- Advanced Officer Training in a variety of subjects (see below)
- Pre-Employment Screening
- Resource Identification and Referral for longer term counseling
- Organizational Consultation
- Officer remediation assistance
Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) services are preventative in nature and represent the standard of care in the industry for officer-involved shootings and other operational crisis. They are designed to reduce disruptive arousal, increase productivity, enhance employee wellbeing and facilitate a rapid return to “normalcy” in affected personnel.
Our CISM Response services follow the International Critical Incident Foundation (“Mitchell Model”) of debriefing which is the standard of care in the industry. We guarantee 24-hour, 7 day-a-week availability and 3 hour response time to the scene for agencies contracted with PSG. PSG provides expert consultation in critical incidents and disaster deployment. We provide selection, training and supervision for your in-house peer support team. CISM services are the backbone of a healthy organization in this high-risk field. PSG provides the additional benefit of mutual aid from other law enforcement Peer Support Teams throughout Northern California should the need arise.
The 1973 publication of Joseph Wambaugh’s The Onion Field ushered in a new era in law enforcement. The heinous kidnap of LAPD Detective Ian Campbell and his partner Karl Hettinger, and the subsequent murder of Officer Campbell as related in Wambaugh’s nonfiction book changed forever the way law enforcement personnel trained and drew the attention of the budding field of police psychology. Changed forever was the academy training of future law enforcers as we internalized the painful lessons of the Onion Field. Wambaugh wrote compellingly of the psychological perils in modern police work in this and subsequent works, and a fascinated psychology profession paid heed.
These early events inform our understanding of modern police response as well as psychological support services to the entirety of the first responder profession. The advent of psychological screening left little doubt that these uniquely qualified individuals were possessed of deeply rooted personality traits, traditions and integrity that made them ideal candidates for the job, yet they clearly suffered predictably negative outcomes including higher than average incidence of divorce, alcoholism, heart disease, gastrointestinal disease and suicide.
As focus finally landed on the impact of the consistent exposure to incidents beyond the pale of normal human experience that are the constant companion of the first responder, clinicians began to advocate for psychological services for impacted personnel. Sticking to what they knew, psychology types offered “counseling” primarily to individuals involved in deadly force encounters. While this effort was well intended it didn’t accept the cultural divide and inherently threatening format of the “psychological interview” process on traumatized responders. This methodology was doomed to failure as psychologists held careers in their hands with one flourish of the pen: fit for duty, or not.
Motivated by an increasing awareness of the ‘cost of doing business’ in the first responder community, the 1980s ushered in the era of peer driven, clinician led group crisis intervention protocols developed by Dr. Jeffrey Mitchell who ultimately went on to found the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF) formalizing a network of first responder crisis response teams trained in a standardized and comprehensive crisis intervention model (CISM). Over 1,000 CISM teams exist today and ICISF has grown to over 7,000 members in twenty-eight nations. These protocols embrace the unique culture of the first responder community, indeed they utilize trained peer support personnel from within the organization in service delivery in a systematic, multi-component, phase sensitive approach to trauma and crisis support services.
Gordon Graham, former officer, attorney and co-founder of Lexipol is quoted as saying, “If it’s predictable, it’s preventable” thus putting us all on notice that these predictable outcomes of first responder stress must be conscientiously addressed to ‘shield’ personnel from the preventable aspects of stress exposure. Fortunately, our post 9/11 experiences have increased our understanding of the influence of these stressors and several profession specific protocols have been developed to address these predicted outcomes. Perhaps most importantly we have come to understand that an extraordinary group of persons emerging from their work at Ground Zero, the Pentagon and Flight 93 revealed a previously under-acknowledged pattern of personality, behavior and beliefs that allowed for more than just recovery from the trauma. The posttraumatic growth of these responders inspired a new field of study supporting first responders with pre-incident preparedness and resiliency training thus closing that gap between reactive and proactive preparation for dangerous encounters with stress.
The past has taught us that psychological services are not optional. Psychological services are essential in the public safety climate of this century if an organization wishes to function optimally and safeguard the social, emotional and physical well being of its personnel and the public. The Psychological Services Group offers a full compliment of programs and trainings to address the before, during and after of any incident which threatens the well being of these stewards of public welfare. It is our belief that we are morally bound to not just react to these predictable events, but to proactively provide training, guidance, and protocols which allow our first responder to be psychologically prepared for their daily encounters with the worst that society so often has to offer.