Trauma and Police Violence: Issues and Implications for Mental Health Professionals


In this piece, the authors present the case of a young Black American man who experienced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after an episode of police violence. Through engagement with this case, the authors consider whether trauma-focused psychotherapies, particularly trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapies (TF-CBT), are equipped to attend to contextual factors relevant to traumatic experiences of police violence. The authors suggest further research to determine for whom and in what contexts standard forms of psychotherapy as well as alternatives to TF-CBT are effective, and augmenting provider education to include advocacy strategies aimed at reducing police violence—advocacy that is relevant in the context of nationwide protests occurring after the officer-perpetrated killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others.

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The authors are deeply grateful to “Jay,” who prefers anonymity, for sharing his story and editing this piece for accuracy and appropriateness.


No funding supported the development of this manuscript. This manuscript has not been presented elsewhere and is not under consideration for publication elsewhere.

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Dr. Klein completed the literature search, developed the argument, wrote the manuscript, interviewed the individual described, and completed revision of drafts. Dr. Lopez assisted in the development of the manuscript, contributed to the revisions and editing, and provided expertise, supervision, and guidance in all stages of development.

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Correspondence to Edwin Joseph Klein.

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Klein, E.J., Lopez, W.D. Trauma and Police Violence: Issues and Implications for Mental Health Professionals. Cult Med Psychiatry (2021).

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  • Trauma
  • Police violence
  • Psychotherapy
  • Traumatic stress