In recent years, there has been an increasing focus on the mental and emotional strain experienced by those working within the blue light services. It’s estimate that almost 70% of police officers and staff experience a mental health issue and many of these don’t receive the help that they need.

This can perhaps be attributed to the fear of being seen as weak, or “not good enough for the job”, leading people to worry that speaking out and asking for help will have a detrimental impact on their career.

For those who do seek help, it’s reported that current psychological interventions aren’t having the desired effect.

So, what can be done to support the Police workforce?

At the end of 2021, our partners Inspired to Change Ltd funded and conducted a feasibility to measure the effectiveness of a modern, neuroscience based approach – Clinical Solution Focused Hypnotherapy.

Below, Dr Emma Treby (one of the lead researchers) explains the background of the study, how it was conducted and what the study found.

Police Mental Health Support

Developing and reporting on our feasibility study to measure the effectiveness of Solution Focused Hypnotherapy in a UK Police Force

Northumbria Police recognise that whilst provision of Mental Health support services is varied that uptake could be increased. At present it is approximated that Mental Health issues costs Northumbria Police £1.87 million per year – through working days lost to absenteeism and presenteeism.

Whilst the exact figures for Northumbria Police are unknown, the UK Police Force experiences elevated levels of anxiety and depression within their population where Police Care UK estimate 66% of the police workforce may have psychological or Mental Health issues and 71% of officers are likely to have anxiety and depression.

At present psychotherapy is seen as the most effective treatment for common Mental Health disorders such as anxiety and depression. The most commonly used and validated psychotherapeutic tool is that of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). However, it has been suggested that effectiveness is only marginally more than placebo. According to several meta-analysis studies, whilst current psychotherapeutic interventions may reduce symptoms for those who undertake therapy, over 50% do not respond to treatment, meaning they experience no significant reduction in symptoms.

Recent studies have also highlighted that for those 50% who do respond to treatment and experience a reduction in symptoms, this is not necessarily associated with any improvement in their wellbeing and wellness even for those who have experienced recovery i.e., no clinical symptoms.

Time for something new

The UK Police Forces and the academic literature are calling for a different approach to supporting mental health issues. With this backdrop, the Inspired to Change research team created a research project to assess the effectiveness of Solution Focused Hypnotherapy (SFH) to support Police officers and staff in Northumbria Police who identified problems with their general wellbeing and/or functioning at work.

Despite much anecdotal evidence of the effectiveness of SFH to support people with a variety of presenting issues such as anxiety, depression, confidence issues, insomnia and PTSD, to date, there have been no formal studies to measure its effectiveness in a way that enables comparison to the most popular current psychotherapeutic tool – CBT.

The scope of the study

The effectiveness of SFH was evaluated through qualitative and quantitative data collection from participants through the collection of validated pre and post intervention outcomes measures (to measure anxiety (GAD-7) and depression (PHQ9) symptoms), Life wellness indicator scores (to measure wellness), information gathering participant data, participant and therapist questionnaires, interviews with therapists and conversations with Police HR and Wellbeing staff.

 The reasons for seeking support through this study were varied but predominantly for anxiety and stress reduction. Participants also sought support for depression, sleep issues, loss of confidence, public speaking, and fertility issues.

Whilst sleep was not commonly mentioned as a primary reason for seeking support, sleep quality data were collected through participant information gathering, where the majority reported sleep issues. Where trauma was mentioned, this was also addressed successfully.

Study results

100% of participants that completed treatment responded i.e., were getting better as a result of therapy.

Furthermore 78% of participants completed therapy with no clinical symptoms i.e., they recovered completely.

Data demonstrated that participants progressed regardless of their therapist’s years of experience or confidence as a therapist.

Life wellness score increases of 84% echoed the reduction of anxiety and depression symptoms demonstrating an improvement in participant wellbeing and wellness.

The average number of sessions participants received was 8-12 which reflects the anecdotal average number for sessions for anxiety and depression in general.

More than 50% of participants had previously experienced therapy, either independently, through the Force or both. Regardless of any prior therapy, expectations of SFH were varied, but themes emerging from the data suggest that the majority of participants were invested in the process and enjoyed the structured, logical and positive nature of therapy sessions, often sharing their experiences of therapy and newly developed tools with other work colleagues.

Participants noted a number of tools they had gleaned through therapy which they could now use to cope better with stress, gain perspective and to build their resilience. The impact of therapy moved beyond that of participants’ working lives, with the majority commenting on the difference it had made to their home and family life – there being a positive ripple effect as a result of therapy.

Looking to the future

SFH has demonstrated its effectiveness in symptom reduction and improved wellness and resilience regardless of presenting issue for Officers and Staff in Northumbria Police. Its highly structured, logical, and understandable approach enables participant engagement and quick results. We hope that this study will lead onto to more research focusing on the role of SFH in preventative work alongside trauma resolution (PTSD) and Mental Health recovery.


We also hope that this study will encourage others, particularly blue light organisations, to prioritise an approach to mental health which has its foundations created by robust Mental Health Awareness training with a basis in neuroscience and an in depth understanding of how the brain works and consider offering SFH as part of its package of support for employees.

Download a Copy of the Full Report

Fill in the form below to download a copy of the full report to find out more. If you would like to discuss the study in more details, you can get in touch with  the research team at

Northumbria Police Research Report Front Cover
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