Arts & Sciences

Retired police detective turned clinical psychologist adds teaching to her résumé

April 13, 2015 by Margo Myers

PychologistPoliceDr. Loreli Thompson likes variety, adventure and figuring things out. So a 30-year career in law enforcement with the Lacey Police Department turned out to be a great fit for her.

“I was one of the first females on the job when I joined the Lacey police department,” said Thompson. “It was a more rural community back then, but even so, it was a little overwhelming at first.” Thompson said some “gentlemen on the force weren’t used to a woman officer and weren’t afraid to tell you so.”

Thompson persevered, serving over the course of her career as a patrol officer, sex crime detective, patrol lieutenant, and drug task force commander. That meant investigating drug crimes, tracking major drug trafficking operations involving “heroin and a fair amount of meth,” as well as marijuana rings.

She also participated in several multistate operations headed by federal investigators to take down drug traffickers. But investigating sex crimes became her forte. “I was a detective in sex crimes for 11 years,” she says. “It was interesting work and became my specialty. I traveled all over to help solve those types of crimes for agencies that did not have specialists or the case involved officers accused of sexual offending.”

It was while working sex crimes that Thompson became interested in psychology, and the workings of the criminal mind. She already had bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice, so she pursued a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Brandman (then Chapman) University and Fielding Graduate University. Thompson would go on to get a doctorate in clinical psychology from Fielding.

“Obviously, I love learning and like school,” said Thompson.

When it came time to step away from law enforcement, teaching seemed like a natural transition to a new career.

“I’d already been teaching at the community college level, and then Brandman gave me the opportunity to teach psychology classes, primarily at the master’s level,” explained Thompson. She’s now been teaching Brandman students for five years, instructing in child and adolescent psychology, psychology assessment (which she loves), sex therapy and an ethics class.

“I like students who are fascinated to learn,” said Thompson. “I also like that it keeps me current. These are great classes, great topics. And the psychological testing is fascinating. It all fits right into my ballpark.”

In addition to her teaching career, Dr. Thompson, a licensed clinical psychologist, has a private practice with significant experience in the fields of trauma and violence. She works with a variety of clients, from police officers and military veterans coping with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to military sexual trauma to sex offender evaluations.

“I look at their risk to re-offend,” said Thompson. “I consider their criminal history, if there’s substance abuse, what kind of crime it was, their age, and level of violence to determine whether they can be treated or released into the community. The most dangerous are violent rapists and serial pedophiles, who do not get the special programs, of course.”

With her love of variety, Dr. Thompson sees herself continuing with her private practice and teaching for years to come. “I’m grateful that Brandman has given me the opportunity,” she said. “So far, it’s been a great adventure.”

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