Attitudes Toward Seeking Mental Health Treatment and Provider Preferences Among Law Enforcement officers

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Psychology and Special Education

Date of Award

Spring 2012


Law enforcement is considered one of the most stressful occupations and findings have suggested that officers may be at increased risk for a variety of personal, emotional, and vocational issues. However, numerous factors have been cited to explain resistance among police officers to seek help. The purpose of this study was to evaluate attitudes toward seeking mental health treatment among law enforcement officers, as well as provider preferences for a variety of presenting problems. This study also evaluated officers` perception of willingness among colleagues to seek mental health treatment, their endorsement of elements of the police culture, and the ways in which demographic variables interacted to predict attitudes toward mental health treatment and provider preferences. An online survey was administered to a sample of 158 sworn officers from 17 agencies in Texas. Results indicate that although police officers held a more negative attitude toward seeking professional psychological help than the general population, they exhibited, on average, a neutral attitude toward seeking treatment. Female officers held more negative views than their counterparts in the normative sample, while male officers did not differ from the male controls. Officers` perception of other officers` willingness to seek services was positively correlated with attitude scores, and endorsement of the distrust of outsider norm was negatively correlated with attitude scores. Furthermore, officers perceived their colleagues to be less willing to seek psychological help than themselves. They indicated concern with pragmatic aspects of service utilization such as cost, availability of information, provider competency, and location, as well as stigma, peer judgment, and confidentiality. The responses suggest that provider preferences varied depending on the nature of the presenting problem. Officers who reported more positive attitudes toward seeking mental health treatment were more likely to prefer a professional provider for issues affecting both personal and job functioning. The more strongly officers identified with police officers, the more they preferred a peer supporter for mental health issues that were impacting personal or job functioning. Furthermore, the majority of officers expressed a preference for a professional mental health provider, hired as a consultant, over one employed by the department.


Karin Tochkov

Subject Categories

Education | Educational Psychology