Exploration of the Referral Process of Social Work Within a Policing Structure
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Police officers have historically taken on social service-related roles by providing non law-enforcement services to members of the community. A relatively small fraction of police departments employs social workers to assist with providing social service resources to the individuals that come into contact with police. Social workers in these settings provided expertise and resources for individuals experiencing homelessness, difficulty with mental health, poverty, victims of violent crime, and trauma associated with the aforementioned areas. Music therapy is a field poised to serve these populations, as shown by a review of existing research, yet not much is known about the use of music therapy as a possible referral source from policing personnel. Therefore, the purpose of this phenomenological study was to illuminate the experiences of social workers that work within a policing structure to recommend steps for music therapists to better serve individuals seen by the social workers. The researcher conducted semi structured interviews with social workers, officers, and supervisors from a midwestern police department regarding their experiences with the referral processes, perceptions of the social workers by police officers, and knowledge and barriers to music therapy. Themes from interviews indicated that the referral process works most effectively when mutual respect, understanding, and desire to help are present between the social workers and referring officers. Barriers to music therapy include cost, availability, and location of services, as well as stigma surrounding mental health. Limitations of the study, research implications, and recommendations for music therapists were discussed.