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psychological, psychiatric, posttraumatic, post-traumatic


Psychological flexibility is a behavioral model that suggests relating to private experiences (e.g., thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations) in an open and accepting manner facilitates engagement in behavioral actions guided by personally held values, which in turn leads to high general well-being even when an individual experiences distress (Hayes et al, 2012). Notably, low psychological flexibility is associated with high posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) that follow exposure to a potentially traumatic event (PTE; Meyer et al, 2019). PTSS are, in turn, related to low well-being and high levels of other psychiatric symptoms (e.g., anxiety, depression; Burns & Teesson, 2002) and alcohol misuse behavior (Ballenger et al, 2011). Some researchers suggest psychologically inflexible responses to private experiences may account, in part, for such PTSS-negative outcome associations. One population exposed to frequent PTEs is police officers, yet the relation of PTSS, psychological flexibility, and other psychiatric symptoms among this population has yet to be identified. Accordingly, the present study aimed to identify psychological flexibility as a behavioral mechanism linking PTSS to other psychiatric symptoms and alcohol misuse in a sample of US police officers (N = 459) who completed cross-sectional online surveys. Structural equation modeling results indicated psychological flexibility mediated the relation of PTSS and psychiatric symptoms, alcohol use and, for less tenured officers, well-being. After accounting for psychological flexibility, no direct path from PTSS to any outcome remained significant. Results will be discussed in terms of future directions and implications for the development of organizational programs and therapeutic strategies to improve police officer functioning.

First Advisor

Christopher R. Berghoff

Research Area