Team to host mindfulness training classes in county
Collaborators teach resiliency to police, others
Collaborators from Pacific University in Forest Grove, the Stress Reduction Clinic in Hillsboro and the Hillsboro Police Department are continuing the momentum of a grant-funded training and research project designed to enhance the resiliency and performance of police officers.
Late in 2015, the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Complementary & Integrative Health awarded Pacific's School of Professional Psychology a grant of $379,500 over a two-year period to further develop and study the effects of Mindfulness-Based Resilience Training (MBRT) with police officers.
MBRT is a mind-body fitness course that brings contemporary neuroscience, medicine, psychology, contemplative tradition and experiential learning together in the classroom. Participants learn skills enhancing mental clarity, personal health and mindfulness exercises emphasizing range of motion and injury prevention. Participants also learn practical skills to assist mitigation of stressors in the field, office and at home.
The training presents an opportunity for police officers to learn skills that enhance resiliency and the ability to shift toward a healthier relationship with the professional and personal stressors in their lives.
Michael Christopher, an associate professor in the School of Professional Psychology and principal investigator, said the grant allows the collaborative to further examine the feasibility and impact of the training on specific stressors experienced by officers.
Christopher, whose research interests include mindfulness training among diverse groups, and assistant professor and principal investigator Matthew Hunsinger whose research interests include mindfulness practice and intergroup relations began their work with the collaborative in 2013.
Lt. Richard Goerling of the Hillsboro Police Department, a nationally recognized authority on mindfulness in police trainings, and Brant Rogers of the Stress Reduction Clinic at Yoga Hillsboro, a nationally recognized mindfulness-based trainer certified by University of Massachusetts Medical School, initiated the collaborative police trainings in 2006.
Three groups of police officers have completed the MBRT training taught by Rogers with assistance from Goerling, and Christopher and Hunsinger investigated the preliminary impact of the program on officer resilience.
The initial findings, Christopher said, were very encouraging. "We found a variety of positive outcomes, including improvements in resilience, mental health, physical health, better sleep, less anger and lower fatigue," he said.
To build on these preliminary findings and using a more sophisticated research design, the researchers will measure outcomes such as stress hormone levels, unconscious social bias and its relationship to split-second decision-making and mental clarity under duress all of which are crucial elements of job performance in this very high-stress profession.
Any law enforcement agency or individual officer is welcome to participate, Christopher said. So far, a number of departments including the Hillsboro Police, Portland Police, Beaverton Police, Forest Grove Police, Washington County Sheriffs Office, Clark County Sheriffs Office and Clackamas County Sheriffs Office have expressed interest in the training, which is expected to begin next month.
"This has the potential to improve the effectiveness and health of officers as well as the well-being of their families and the communities they serve," Christopher said.