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Law Enforcement and Corrections Family Support: Development and Evaluation of a Stress Management Program for Officers and Their Spouses, Final Report

NCJ Number
Rudy Arredondo Ed.D.; Sterling T. Shumway Ph.D.; Thomas G. Kimball Ph.D.; Charette A. Dersch Ph.D.; C. Nichole Morelock M.S.; Laura Bryan M.S.
Date Published
November 2002
48 pages
This paper reports on a project designed to develop, demonstrate, and test an innovative stress prevention and treatment program for law enforcement officers.
The program began as an 8-week (later modified via feedback to 6 weeks) training seminar that used a combination of didactic group training and group therapy for couples. After couples completed the program, some chose to remain in their groups to provide ongoing support to each other as part of the peer mentoring component of the program. These groups were led by a nominated peer leader/facilitator. The peer mentor received special training in leading and facilitating groups. Topics covered were couple communication skills; relationship strengthening strategies; shift work and long hours, emotional control, and command presence; skeptical attitudes and hypervigilance; unpredictability of police work and public scrutiny; depression, trauma, and coping/stress reactions; substance abuse; and opportunity to select the peer mentor couple and to "wrap up." An initial pool (n=250) of police officers was randomly selected, and from this pool, officers were randomly assigned to either the experimental group or a waiting-list control group. The experimental group included 19 participants, and the control group was composed of 51 participants. Questionnaires were provided to both experimental and control group participants prior to beginning the treatment portion of the program, at completion of the program, and again at 6-month follow-up. Instruments were administered to measure personal stress levels (Index of Clinical Stress); psychopathology and stressors (Brief Symptom Inventory); major styles of coping (Coping Inventory for Stressful Situations); and levels of relationship interaction/satisfaction (Couple Behavior Report). Separate ANOVA's were performed to test differences between the experimental and control groups. This study yielded preliminary evidence that a program of this type may be helpful in working with police officers and their significant others; for example, the experimental group participants' use of employee assistance benefits increased at a statistically significant rate when compared to those in the control group. Regarding stress, there was evidence that the program decreased the stress levels of those in the experimental group when compared to those in the control group. There were no significant findings with regard to avoidance coping and couple supportive behaviors between the two groups, and the mean trends provided no additional insight. Recommendations in the area of recruiting efforts focus on incentives, decreasing the lack of trust and building awareness of the program, and addressing the stereotype of being weak if one participates in the program. Recommendations for program modifications focus on the group process, ownership of the curriculum, a less clinical setting, and peer mentoring. Program limitations are also discussed. 34 references and appended qualitative survey, phone interview questions, and participant focus group questions