Webinar presenter Duane Bowers answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Providing Wellness Support for Online Child Exploitation Personnel. Here are some of his responses.
Audience Question: I am a Police Psychologist and I train and treat Law Enforcement, federal agents and other first responders. I use Prolonged Exposure with excellent outcomes. What treatment modality do you use with this unique population as they are exposed every day and continue to get Post Traumatic Stress Injury?
Duane Bowers: In the context of the agency sponsored programs, we have to be very careful to not provide counseling or therapy. Agencies are very articulate in stating that they are not in business to provide counseling, particularly for one specific division or unit. They go on to state that they provide EAPs and medical insurance for the employee to receive mental health interventions on the outside. Therefore, the support/wellness sessions described in this webinar focus on stress reduction, building resiliency, and a little DBT for staying in the present moment to help mentally let go of cases.
Audience Question: Is this comparable to compassion fatigue in care taking roles such as CPS workers, medical staff, etc.
Duane Bowers: Yes, very similar. Currently, with the change in the PTSD criteria that is now including secondary trauma, there is a move to incorporate all of those terms like compassion fatigue, vicarious traumatization, etc under the one heading of ‘secondary trauma’.
Audience Question: How does a manager or supervisor approach an employee who might not be managing the stress of seeing these images well?
Duane Bowers: Folks don’t want to admit that the job may be getting to them, and often refuse to see it. One way might be to take the list of symptoms I discussed and go through it with them to see how much they have changed in the past 2 years. Or give examples of how those symptoms have been observed in him or her by others at work. The nice thing about this approach is it’s hard to deny the symptoms.
Audience Question: These skills you’ve described seem like they would be useful to anyone in law enforcement. Are these skills taught in today’s academies? (Shouldn’t they?)
Duane Bowers: I agree! From my experience, most police academies teach the importance of self-care, and maybe a quick stress management class. However, I’m not aware of an academy that approaches self-care and wellness as a course, with all of the body/brain information and variety of interventions. In addition, there is great information out there about how trauma affects different personality types which is also helpful. A good academy approach would be to teach each cadet to develop their own self-care/wellness plan based on their personality type before they left the academy.
Audience Question: Do you know if these Wellness Sessions are covered under most insurance plans?
Duane Bowers: The wellness programs I discussed are paid for by the agency itself; I am, for example, paid by TUMBLR, NCMEC, and MD ICAC for providing the service, and it is provided for free as a benefit to the employees.
Audience Question: How do we speak to our supervisors if there isn’t a culture of support?
Duane Bowers: I find that people are more easily won over by the ‘scientific’ approach than the mental health approach. Showing examples of high cortisol behavior among the staff, and how it would benefit the agency if those behaviors were eliminated. Even showing the supervisor how their own behavior has changed over the last couple of years. Then, finding a unit or agency that has a wellness program and making observable comparisons to help the supervisor see the benefit.
Audience Question: Where do academics that study CP and related media as part of their academic expertise, it into this paradigm of support structures? Do you also work with researchers?
Duane Bowers: Research along this line is relatively new. Remember being exposed to this material was not considered as exposure to trauma until 2012. If you search for research, you won’t find much. And, because the content is illegal, the research would only pertain to those who can legally work with it; ISPs, NCMEC, ICACs and Law Enforcement. In some cases, it has taken legal action against an agency for putting staff at risk to get them to create programs. I have helped to write policy and developed programs, but I have not been part of research.
Audience Question: Could you please clarify – You said changing from types of cases (ie: from robbery to CP) is a good thing or bad thing?
Duane Bowers: Sorry if I gave the impression of good or bad; it is what it is. The research suggests that for investigators who may have to work multiple types of cases, the stress of trying to shift in or out of CP cases may be as stressful as the content viewed in the case itself. That is why, for these investigators, some of the wellness time needs to be spent in sharpening their ‘transition’ skills.
Audience Question: Are all internet companies required to monitor their traffic and report to NCMEC? (ie: KIK, other chats, etc)
Duane Bowers: All ISPs are responsible for what appears on their website, even if the public does the posting. So, if what is posted is illegal, such as CP, the ISP is liable. This is why most of them have a Trust and Safety Team or the equivalent. NCMEC has good relationships with nearly all ISPs and communicate constantly about report of CP on their web-sites. There are a few ISPs who take this less seriously or actually profit from it, as can be seen on the news and in some highly visible court cases.
A Special Note from Our Presenter: Thank you all for your questions. I’m sorry for the technical glitch that did not allow me to address them live. I hope the information in the webinar was helpful.