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Understanding and Addressing Occupational Stressors in Internet-Delivered Therapy for Public Safety Personnel

Authors: Beahm, J.D., Landry, C.A., McCall, H.C., Carleton, R.N., & Hadjistavropoulos, H.D. 2022.

Topics: ICBT


Why Was the Study Done?

Public safety personnel (PSP) experience high rates of mental health concerns. Two types of occupational stressors that may contribute to the mental health concerns of PSP are operational stressors and organizational stressors. Operational stressors have to do with one’s job duties, such as fatigue from shift work, exposure to potentially psychologically traumatic events, and conflicts between work and personal life. Organizational stressors have to do with the context of one’s job, such as staff shortages, interpersonal issues, and a lack of resources leading to unmanageable workloads.

Internet-delivered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (ICBT) effectively treats various mental health concerns and can help overcome barriers to care. The current study examined the occupational stressors that PSP describe when seeking and receiving ICBT and how PSP use skills learned in ICBT to manage those stressors.


What Was Done in the Study?

This study examined data from 126 Saskatchewan-based clients enrolled in the PSP Wellbeing Course with PSPNET between December 5th, 2019, and March 15th, 2021. Data included information PSP shared with their therapist before, during, and after ICBT. Researchers striped all data of personal information, and PSP provided consent for their data to be used as part of this research.


What Did We Find Out?

  • 96.8% of clients reported seeking ICBT for one or more occupational stressors.
  • 89.6% of clients reported operational stressors during the eligibility screen, and 45.2% reported organizational stressors.
  • 79.3% of clients reported being exposed to one or more potentially psychologically traumatic events (PPTEs). PPTEs were the most frequent type of occupational stressor mentioned by clients during the eligibility screen.
  • Most clients (69.5%) also reported seeking ICBT because of personal stressors outside of occupational stressors.
  • Clients noted that skills from the course helped them manage stress related to:
    • Being exposed to psychologically traumatic events
    • Dealing with demanding or combative clients/patients
    • Attending trial
    • Flashbacks or symptoms related to previous calls
    • Feelings of inadequacy related to their job
    • Becoming more social at work
    • Being more assertive when criticized by the public
  • Clients also described the skills as helpful for improving personal relationships impacted by their work (e.g., managing anger and outbursts towards family).
  • Thought challenging was the skill most frequently reported as helpful for managing occupational stressors.
  • Many clients found the PSP-specific case stories helpful.


Where Do We Go From Here?

This study shows that PSP seek and use ICBT to manage diverse occupational stressors, including both operational and organizational stressors. Overall, thought challenging was the skill most frequently reported as helpful by PSP. PSPNET is using the result from this study to continue to adapt and improve the PSP Wellbeing Course. For instance, the results have been used to make changes to PSP-specific case stories and to guide the development of new additional resources.


Original Story

Understanding and addressing occupational stressors in internet-delivered therapy for public safety personnel. Read publication here.

The original wording of the study was changed and condensed for the current research summary.

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