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Vetting therapists for cops: Consider these questions, FOP says

An extensive checklist aims to help agencies evaluate police-friendly wellness providers, programs and products

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By Suzie Ziegler

WASHINGTON — A new tool from the Fraternal Order of Police aims to help agencies choose “culturally competent wellness services” for police officers. The result is the Wellness Provider Vetting Guide, an extensive checklist of questions that agencies should consider when evaluating mental health programs, products or practitioners for their officers.

According to the FOP, the idea was conceived after an FOP survey revealed that many law enforcement members worried that “mental health providers may not understand the unique nature of police culture and the job.”

“[The guide] focuses on ensuring the provider has a requisite level of cultural competency and familiarity with law enforcement and other public safety professions,” the document reads in part. “Our vetting process is multifaceted and seeks to examine various aspects of wellness services as outlined in the following sections.”

The 12-page document covers a variety of relevant topics such as confidentiality, billing, experience working with law enforcement officers and programs specific to first responders.

Providers who meet the guide’s expectations may then be included in an FOP-approved directory of nationwide wellness services, according to the document.

Below are just a few of the vetting questions that the FOP suggests agencies ask when considering a wellness service:

  • What specific programming exists that is dedicated to or attended by only members of law enforcement?
  • What steps are taken to ensure that confidentiality and privacy of the client are preserved?

  • How are demands or requests from police agencies to review client records handled?

  • Under what, if any, circumstances would the facility breach confidentiality?

  • How are inquiries about a client’s fitness for return to duty handled?

  • How long has the practitioner worked with law enforcement or first responder populations?

  • What steps has the practitioner taken to familiarize themselves with law enforcement culture, training, and practices?

  • What are the credentials of the instructors?

  • Is this hotline specifically geared toward law enforcement populations? If not, what other populations are included?

Read the full document and checklist below:

Police1 readers respond

  • This is well presented and as a lifetime member of the FOP, confidentiality is one concern that cannot be emphasized enough. There were certain members of my local FOP Lodge who reported the worst errors in therapist selection. A few decades ago, our city government referred LEOs to therapists without confidentiality to the extent that some LEOs heard their “supervisors” read aloud – at Roll Call – certain statements the LEOs had made to therapists. I remember one LEO telling me that incident led to her sudden resignation and career change. Another later was teased by his “supervisor” and “fellow employees” (notice I did NOT say “teammates”) about these problems. Well, there went teamwork and confidence that another LEO would watch your back. Apparently, the city “administrators” did not see danger in this.