Individuals in high-risk occupations such as the police are regularly exposed to a range of potentially traumatic incidents (Rudofossi, 2009), leaving them at a heightened risk of developing psychological trauma reactions as compared to the general public. West Yorkshire Police Federation (2014) highlighted the scale of the problem, reporting 6,673 officers in the United Kingdom (UK) took time off work in 2013/2014 due to psychological illnesses, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Literature suggests that there are three main protective factors against these reactions, namely, prior knowledge of signs and symptoms (Chae & Boyle, 2013), adaptive coping mechanisms (Menard & Arter, 2013) and help seeking (Evans, Pistrang & Billings, 2013) however, the question of how this knowledge is disseminated to officers remains. Psycho-education has predominantly been delivered as part of de-briefing (Sahin, Yilmaz & Batigun, 2011) both with civilians and officers however its efficacy has been widely debated (e.g. Wesseley et al. 2008). Conversely, Manzella and Papazoglou (2014) found encouraging results regarding the utilisation of psychoeducation as a pre-briefing with officers, with 77.8% of participants stating that they ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that trauma psycho-education was useful to them. Despite this, research in the field is limited, therefore, it is essential to evaluate the effectiveness of psycho-educational pre-briefings and whether they assist officers to ensure that measures are in place to promote officer welfare at the earliest opportunity and to support them with the inherent, psychological dangers of their work. Due to the current status of mixed research evidence surrounding the general concept of psycho-education and the limited evidence base regarding its utilisation pre-trauma, the aim of this study is to evaluate the efficacy of the psycho-educational pre-briefing on which it is based. The objectives are to complete this evaluation in the short-term via the quantitative measurement of knowledge change surrounding the three main protective factors, pre and post psycho-education (Phase 1), followed by the qualitative exploration of it’s practical usefulness in the longer-term (Phase 2).
This research will employ a sequential explanatory mixed methods design in two phases. Phase 1 is quantitative, repeated measures design stemming from a realist worldview in order assess short-term changes in knowledge of the three main protective factors, deemed by the researcher to be measureable constructs. Phase 2 is a qualitative, semi-structured interview method stemming from a relativist worldview, in order to provide a deeper understanding of the longer-term usefulness of the psycho-education, utilising officers lived experiences of exposure to potentially traumatic incidents. This will take place 12-18 months after Phase 1, when participants will have frontline policing experience. Phase 1 will utilise around 50 student police officers from Cheshire Constabulary who participated in the psycho-educational pre-briefing in their initial training. Phase 2 will comprise of around 8 participants from Phase 1 who are based in a frontline role within Cheshire, 12-18 months following Phase 1. Inclusion and exclusion criteria will apply to both phases.
"Psychoeducation: A valuable tool"; Police Chief Magazine; September 2015