Resilience training in the workplace: The role of trainee motivation, transfer climate and practise in the prevention of psychological injuries

Date

2016

Authors

Horan, Christopher

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Abstract

Chronic stress is a major problem in organisations and police are at particular risk due to regular exposure to traumatic stressors on the job. This research was initiated by the New South Wales Police Force (NSWPF) to address this problem. It focuses on the development and evaluation of resilience-training programs. Resilience training aims to equip participants with coping skills that can help them to “bounce back from adversity” and be resilient. Key research questions included: Can a brief training course enhance the long-term resilience of police recruits and prevent future psychological injuries? What is the most appropriate resilience training design? What factors are related to better outcomes for resilience training? Drawing on a broad literature review covering stress, policing, coping, emotion regulation, developmental psychopathology and occupational health psychology, we designed a resilience-training program that was universal (to be provided to all officers), preventative (designed to prevent future injuries), and targeted to address transdiagnostic factors that were related to the development of a range of stress-related pathology (especially PTSD and depression). The program was informed by an understanding of risk and protective mechanisms that shape the impact of stressors together with the literature on stress interventions. In order to reduce experiential avoidance and promote coping flexibility, the program incorporated content from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). The research program involved three studies. Studies 1 and 2 were conducted with recruits at the NSWPF Academy while study 3 was conducted with 3rd year psychology students. The program design was updated between the studies to address issues that were identified, and to explore study-specific hypotheses. In line with the existing literature, in study 1 we found that the targeted mechanisms of change accounted for a large amount of variance in the mental health outcome measures indicating that the intervention was directed at important factors that serve to build resilience. However, findings of high levels of attrition, poor training engagement and poor knowledge retention demonstrated problems with training transfer. Program changes were made to address these problems in study 2, with an emphasis on motivating practice through coaching calls and a focus on stages of change. Key findings were that participants who practised the skills during the coaching period experienced significant reductions in stress, t(14) = 3.25, p < .01, PTSD symptoms, t(14) = 2.46, p < .05, and a significant increase in mindfulness, t(14) = -3.05, p < .01. Study 3 built on studies 1 and 2 with a particular focus on homework, stages of change and the replacement of coaching calls with performance aids (in the form of both a Smartphone App and traditional workbook). There were some promising findings, with improvements across time, including a reduction in experiential avoidance, t(53) = -2.01, p = .05, and increases in values progress, t(53) = 2.06, p < .05, and instrumental support , t(53) = 2.09, p < .05. The participants’ change pathway was found to significantly moderate the impact of the training program on practice amount, F(2,49) = 7.17, p < .05, anxiety, F(2, 49) = 4.04, p < .05, perceived stress, F(2,49) = 3.95, p < .05, resilience, F(2,49) = 6.05, p < .01, values progress, F(2,49) = 4.10, p < .05, with the biggest improvements in wellbeing mainly found for participants who were already in an action stage of change for stress management, followed by participants who moved into progress. While practice method was not found to impact on well-being scores, it was found to impact practice quality, t(35.11) = -2.65, p < .05. In conclusion, it appears as if a brief training course can have positive outcomes but more work needs to be done to investigate long-term resilience; the resilience training design needs to be focused on the core constructs of coping and emotion regulation, protective mechanisms and training transfer; and better outcomes are achieved when the training motivates participants to progress along the stages of change and practice the skills. While there is more work to be done the research outlined in this thesis has contributed to moving resilience training forward.

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Keywords

Resilience, resilience training, emotion regulation, coping, stress management, police stress, stress, depression, anxiety, PTSD, life satisfaction, wellbeing, acceptance and commitment therapy, CBT, values, mindfulness, experiential avoidance, social support, training transfer, training effectiveness, stages of change, motivation, personalisation, culture change, performance aids, e-mental health, risk mechanisms, protective mechanisms, prevention, public health, change pathway, practice

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Thesis (DPsych(Clinical))

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DOI

10.25911/5d70f28eac599

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