Check it out

Building a business to help the helpers

Baron Psychology works with police to assist with mental health of officers

Shawna Baron

Police officers are regularly confronted with anxiety- and fear-inducing traumatic situations. Dr. Shawna Baron, licensed psychologist and owner of Baron Psychology, found her calling helping officers with mental health, which she believes benefits the public they serve and their families.

“Trauma is systemic – meaning whatever the public experiences, the officer experiences – and then that gets passed down to the officer’s home life,” Baron said.

In her practice, she contracts with government agencies (primarily law enforcement) to give education and support that hopefully prevents people from passing on that trauma.

“My motto is ‘serving those who serve,’” Baron said. “The collaboration of mental health professionals and law enforcement will only help foster more meaningful and peaceful relationships between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.”

She provides psychological testing, fitness-for-duty evaluations, treatment recommendations in addition to the support and education component. Baron says she provides “the space for law enforcement officers to safely process through critical incidents.”

Starting her business

After 8 years working at a community mental health center, Baron decided to venture out on her own to design a practice where she could do things on her own terms.

She reached out to the Missouri Small Business Development Center at Missouri State University at efactory before she struck out on her own.

“I knew the resources were there, and I did not want to reinvent the wheel,” Baron said.  

The partnerships and resources available provided the answers she sought, because she notes that her education never prepared her for business ownership.

Sandra Smart, technology commercialization specialist in the Missouri SBDC at MSU, worked with Baron as she prepared to launch her business.

“In the early stages of planning, I think Sandra could sense the enormous weight I placed on my own shoulders to make the business work,” Baron said. “She told me something like, ‘Just get the basics done and make it perfect later.’”

This resonated with Baron, and she kept it at the forefront of her mind as she completed her business paperwork (and tried not to sweat the small stuff). Instead, she focused on staying true to her values and meeting clients’ and agencies’ needs.

“The ‘perfect’ is a moving target and is always evolving,” she said.

Moving toward a new certification

Currently, Baron holds contracts at the federal, state and city levels. She’s also been recognized and certified as a woman-owned business at the state and federal level.

“It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to work with Shawna, an expert in her field who is tackling difficult issues and providing much needed support to law enforcement, to start her business,” Smart said. “It was important to make sure Shawna was connected to resources that would give her business the best opportunity to secure government contracts, which included the recommendation to obtain a woman-owned small business certification.”

Through the power of word of mouth, she is constantly expanding her reach and securing new contracts. That’s a point of pride for her, and it also highlights a need for the services.

“I think when people have a strong sense of control, they pass on that empowerment to others,” she said. “I hope my clients can feel that.”

She sees new opportunities on the horizon, specifically with training. Currently, she’s working toward certification as a specialized P.O.S.T. instructor, where she will be able to teach officers during their academy training on a variety of topics like:

  • Mental health
  • Resiliency
  • Suicide
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Managing traumatic events

This educational component is rooted in all that Baron does. And she summarizes it simply: “When people feel cared for and have their needs met, they are able to do better, and do their best for others.”