Experiences of burnout, post-traumatic growth, and organisational support in police officers working in specialised units: An interpretative phenomenological analysis

Alexandra Tsirimokou, Juliane A. Kloess, Sonia Kaur Dhinse, Michael Larkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Repeated exposure to traumatogenic material is a part of every working day for police officers in specialist units, such as forensic scene investigation and digital forensic analysis, with recent years marking an increase in its volume and intensity (Office for National Statistics (2018). While this may be considered a price paid for choosing to pursue careers in these areas, it is likely to have a significant impact on a professional and personal level, with psychological and physical effects extending beyond the individual’s working hours (Burns et al. in Traumatology 14:20–31, 2008). On the other hand, this important work may contribute to elements of growth and self-development, recognised in existing literature as post-traumatic growth (Tedschi and Calhoun in SAGE Publications, Inc, 1995). The present study adopted a qualitative approach to understanding the lived experiences of seven digital forensic analysts and two forensic scene investigators. Semi-structured interviews explored the impact of their work, as well as their coping strategies and perceived organisational support. Using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA), the study yielded rich personal accounts and identified three superordinate themes: “The effects are inevitable”, “Creating a safe environment”, and “Sense of responsibility and personal growth”. Participants described the inevitable effects of their work, along with their coping strategies developed in response to these. Furthermore, participants considered the safety of their work environment and relationships with their colleagues, while also reflecting on their experience of personal growth through their exposure to adversity. Findings are discussed in relation to theoretical and practical implications, as well as directions for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Police and Criminal Psychology
Early online date18 Mar 2024
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Mar 2024

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • working with potentially distressing material
  • post-traumatic growth
  • forensic science practitioners
  • police officers’ mental health
  • organisational support

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