Different from classroom based instruction, BOS is a 16-hour program divided into eight modules, all delivered in a group setting of up to 10 participants.
The ideal dosage of BOS is over eight consecutive weeks which allows participants opportunities between group sessions to incorporate the learning from week to week. This can, however, be modified to meet the unique organizational demands of public service agencies.
An additional unique feature of BOS is that following the delivery the 16-hour program, scheduled monthly follow-ups will occur to enhance consolidation of the learning and experience of the program.
Public safety organizations have been influenced by an historical approach to public protection that encourages stoicism as a fundamental attribute required as part of their work. BOS will begin with an exploration of operational service cultures and how valued attributes of stoicism, which continue to be important, must be understood in the context of public safety protection.
A visual media tool will be used to enhance understanding of this concept and the dissemination of the knowledge within this module will then be discussed within the group to explore relevance of the information to group participants.
What participants will take away from this module is an enhanced understanding of stoicism and how these cultural attributes can interfere with processing natural reactions to human suffering.
What we know about operational stress injuries, and particularly the injury of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), is that pathological disruption of specific neural pathways occurs. In essence, exposure to chronic, unprocessed operational stress results in changes to the brain.
This module serves to enhance participants’ understanding of natural responses to stress and the importance of supporting the finishing of a limbic response to stress when it occurs. That is, participants will learn the importance of, and techniques, to facilitate the processing of natural responses to stress so as to mitigate pathological disruption to the neural circuitry implicated in PTSD.
We are normalizing the understanding that public safety personnel are going to be exposed to operational stress. This module serves to help participants’ understand and recognize the cognitive, emotional and behavioral markers of operational stress within themselves. The objective of this module is to enhance participants’ ability to engage in self-monitoring to increase their ability to recognize when intervention is required.
BOS can enhance participants’ ability to engage in self monitoring to increase their ability to recognize when intervention is required
This module will focus on understanding how operational stress can negatively impact cognition. For the purposes of this module, cognition implies thoughts about ourselves, others and about the world as a whole. It also incorporates understanding of operational stress and its impact on information processing. Participants will be supported to understand the relationship between operational stress and cognitive change, and they will be provided with specific techniques to intervene on patterns of cognition. Operational stress causes fiery thinking. This module gives participants techniques to calm their thinking.
Human beings all come into this world with a basic, universal set of emotions. One need only spend time with a small child to understand what those emotions are. In the context of stoic service cultures, public safety personnel are often socialized to treat some emotions as more acceptable than others, leading to suppression of emotions deemed unacceptable. When certain emotional experiences are denied or avoided, the risks of intensifying operational stress effects are increased. This module will focus on the nature and purpose of the basic human emotions. Participants will be supported to understand the role of each emotional experience and will be encouraged to relate to all emotional experience differently than what stoic service cultures would encourage.
One of the most common effects of operational stress is negative behavioral change. When stress intensifies, public safety personnel commonly change their daily activities, often losing interest in activities they once enjoyed as well as to become more avoidant of situations that remind them of operational experiences. This module will focus on the importance of behavioral activation and how participants can utilize graded behavioral exposure to maintain regulated and valued daily activity. Public safety personnel remain healthy when they have a personal life that they value. It remains essential for public safety personnel to be able to disconnect from their operational role and having valued personal activities supports their ability to do so. This module addresses this objective.
Public safety personnel remain healthy when they have a personal life that they value. It remains essential for public service personnel to be able to disconnect from their operational role and having valued personal activities supports their ability to do so.
Those under operational stress commonly become less outwardly expressive. Sometimes public safety personnel struggle to know what it is they’re thinking and feeling, and struggle putting those thoughts and feelings into words. This creates fertile ground for communication and relational breakdown because those suffering the effects of operational stress are vulnerable to misinterpreting the intentions and experiences of others. The downstream effects of this are social isolation and loss of relationships, whether personal or occupational. This module focuses on the understanding and practice of three specific communication skills that support effective communication. These three skills are: paraphrasing, perception check, and clarification. While seemingly simple, these are robust communication interventions to enhance interpersonal understanding.
There is a beautiful paradox that is implicated in a disorder like PTSD. That is, in order to suffer the effects of being exposed to human suffering, one must have an inherent empathic response to the human being to whom suffering occurs. However, having an empathetic response inherently renders one more vulnerable to that very exposure.
This module serves to help participants understand that their capacity for empathy in the face of human suffering will help them to be good at their job. Yet it is that capacity for empathetic response that will render them more vulnerable to the effects of human suffering. It is this vulnerability that, if managed appropriately, will insulate them from the negative effects of operational stress.
At the conclusion of this discussion, the group will be brought to a close and participants will be given the opportunity to engage in a process of saying goodbye to group members in this format. The nature of the work of public service personnel often does not allow for a sense of closure.
Bringing the group to a deliberate and thoughtful close provides participants with the experience of bringing a sense of closure to something that’s been meaningful. This is therapeutically powerful.
Paradox of Empathy
The capacity for empathy will render personnel more vulnerable to the effects of human suffering. Yet it is this vulnerability that will insulate them from the effects.
1 Carleton, NR., et., al. Mental Disorder Symptoms among Public Safety Personnel in Canada. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. 2018; 63; 54 – 64.
All individuals participating in the BOS program will have the opportunity to participate in research evaluating the program. The study will be conducted by researchers at the Canadian Institute of Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT). Participation in the study is voluntary and does not influence your ability to continue in the BOS program. You will receive more information about the research program during your intake interview.
If you have a question that was not answered above, please do not hesitate to reach out.