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April 9, 2016

HealthForumOnline Updates Online Continuing Education Course on the Psychological Factors in Stalking

HealthForumOnline (HFO) has recently updated the continuing education (CE) course entitled, The Psychological Factors in Stalking: Victim and Stalker Characteristics, from its library of over 110 online CE courses for mental health professionals and allied health care providers. This state-of-science online CE course informs mental health professionals in the assessment and treatment of victims of stalking; identification of categories of stalkers; consultation and assistance with law enforcement officials in specific stalking cases and provision of clinically relevant interventions to those involved in stalking.

Philadelphia, PA (PRWEB) April 9, 2016 –HealthForumOnline (HFO), a nationally-approved (APA, ASWB, NBCC) provider of online continuing education (CE) is pleased to announce recent updates to its course entitled, The Psychological Factors in Stalking: Victim and Stalker Characteristics, from its extensive online CE resource library for psychologists, social workers, counselors, and other allied healthcare professionals.

Stalking definitions and terms have undergone much refinement and expansion over the past two decades (e.g., 1), leading to changes in estimates of stalking frequency, research design and ultimately programs aimed at prevention, detection and clinical and legal interventions (e.g., 2).

Using the current definition of stalking as unwanted contact that is repetitive and experienced as intrusive and/or threatening by the victim, it is estimated that approximately 5.9 to 7.5 million people have experienced stalking in the United States (2).  Put another way, approximately 14 in 1,000 Americans are stalked in a given year, with 46% experiencing at least one stalking event weekly. Alarmingly, re-examination of earlier data using newer stalking definitions suggest over 1 to 5.3 million Americans are stalked each year (2). A recent international study across 12 countries supports the universality of this experience, despite cultural differences (3).

One third of stalkers stalk more than one person at a time, 50% are serial stalkers, and 78% use multiple methods of stalking, in part facilitated by advancing technology (4). The overwhelming majority of stalking victims have had some form of prior relationship with their stalker (e.g., 5). Approximately, 50% of victims report being stalked for one year or less, 15% for 1-2 years, 25% for 2-5 years and 10% for over 10 years – with the average stalking duration lasting 20 months (4).

These statistics reveal how persistent and obsessed a stalker can be. While stalker characteristics vary, they are generally characterized as rejected, incompetent or predatory in type, the latter associated with criminal history and high rates of violence. Versatile in their methods, stalkers may engage in approach behaviors where they have direct physical or visual proximity to the victim, with or without aggression; and/or prefer to have indirect, yet unwanted, contact with the victim, such as cyber stalking, surveillance, and other means of indirect intimidation and aggression (4).

The burdens to the victim are many from pragmatic (e.g., scheduling, financial expense; 6) to serious physical and emotional harm, at times lethal. Approximately 33% of stalking victims are assaulted and 6% are murdered (4). Emotionally, stalking victims and survivors experience long-term disruption and significant psychological trauma, including lost peace of mind, restricted freedoms, escalating fear and depleted coping. Many experience helplessness (40%), depression (56%), sleep disorders (41.5%) or turn to drugs or suicide (25%; 4). Anxiety disorders such as Stalking Trauma Syndrome and/or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) often emerge.

As part of a multi-disciplinary team, mental health professionals can help prevent additional harm to stalking victims, as well as reform perpetrators. For example, comprehensive psychological assessments guide diagnosis among victims and stalkers and help predict violent behavior; risk assessment is a complex, nuanced task that relies on professional judgment and experience along with careful clinical data analysis. Psychoeducational interventions can emotionally and behaviorally “inoculate” victims and reduce behavior in perpetrators. This online CE course provides up-to-date information about assessing psychological injury among victims, assisting law enforcement with risk assessment, and providing clinically relevant interventions to those involved in stalking.

1. Meloy, J.R., & Hoffmann, J. (2014). International Handbook of Threat Assessment. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

2. Owens, J.G. (2015). Why Definitions Matter: Stalking Victimization in the United States. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Epub ahead of print.

3. Sheridan, L., et al. (2016). Young women’s experiences of intrusive behavior in 12 countries. Aggressive Behavior, 42(1), 41-53.

4. Jacquin, K. (2012). Psychological Evaluation in Stalking Cases. Conference Presentation American College of Forensic Psychologists Annual Conference: San Francisco, Ca.

5. Weller, M., et al. (2013). Police and public perceptions of stalking: the role of prior victim-offender relationship. Journal Interpersonal Violence, 28(2), 320-339.

6. Petersen, T. (2015). Cyber-stalking Worse than Stalking? Psych Central: Retrieved Dec 1, 2015 from http://psychcentral.com/news/2015/01/25/cyberstalking-worse-than-stalking/80350.html