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  • Therapy for First Responders

    Being a first responder means you are the first to arrive on the scene of a traumatic incident, which can also affect you.

    Therapy Can Help First Responders Manage the Emotional Toll Of Their Jobs

    Let’s be honest: you probably don’t want to tell your colleagues all about your trauma and PTSD. Among many old-timers at your job, there may be an attitude that “first responder trauma doesn’t exist.” Here at Helping Moon, you can discuss your traumatic experiences without any fear that you’ll be judged or invalidated. First responder counseling is a chance to get honest about your relationship with your job and heal your trauma with the help of a trained professional.

    The primary therapist at our practice who works with first responders is currently in law enforcement herself; Kethlin Graham has been on the job for 16 and is our certified first responder counselor specialist.  In addition to Kethlin we have several therapists who went through the fire fighter collaborative training and are trauma specialists.

    Are you a first responder dealing with chronic stress? Despite how much you put your life on the line, does it seem like no one appreciates the work you do?

    Maybe you’re a first responder and constantly worried about screwing up and making the wrong decisions in the heat of the moment. Perhaps you’re a nurse, paramedic, or firefighter suffering from the emotional toll of people you couldn’t save. The daily accumulation of trauma after trauma possibly made you weary. You might relive traumatic calls and stressful scenes in your head; you withdraw from family and friends. Perhaps you’ve turned to drugs or alcohol to numb the pain, but nothing seems to help.

    Public Negativity Towards Your Profession Could Add to Your Emotional Pain

    On top of all your stress, the negativity surrounding first responders in our culture can only add to your burden. If you make a mistake, you feel like you’ll get crucified and face legal trouble. You probably wish you could talk to someone who appreciates you and would let you share all your emotions freely and openly. If this is the case, we encourage you to pursue therapy for first responders. Here at Helping Moon, we are here to validate your struggles and help you resolve your traumas in an environment free from judgment and shame.

    First Responders Suffer from Mental Health Issues More Than the Average Person

    Nobody has a more challenging job than first responders. They must deal with constant exposure to violence, danger, and life-or-death situations. Many firefighters worry about facing accusations for what happens during ambulance rides. Nurses and paramedics often wrestle with guilt over lives they couldn’t save. And in our tumultuous racial and political climate, many police officers fear that one wrong decision will ruin their lives.

    Little wonder, then, that mental health issues are so common among first responders. About 30 percent of first responders struggle with behavioral health conditions, as opposed to just 20 percent of the general population. [1] Firefighters, EMS professionals, and law enforcement are also much more likely to attempt suicide than the average person. [2] This is why it’s so important for first responders to seek therapy.

    Many First Responders Are Encouraged to Suppress Their Pain

    First responders are often told to ignore their trauma and PTSD because it’s just “part of the job.” Unfortunately, law enforcement environment often has a “boys club mentality” of “suck it up and keep going.” As a result, many first responders live with unhealed emotional wounds and pain that they feel pressured to hide from their colleagues. Counseling is a chance to step away from the pressures of your job. It’s an opportunity to share your feelings with someone who won’t judge you or think less of you because of them.

    What To Expect in Sessions

    Therapy for first responders often starts by digging deep into your history and uncovering the core issues you want to heal. First, it’s important to understand how your traumatic memories were stored and how they impact you today. Then, together, we can explore how trauma prevents you from finding internal peace and being able to manage your feelings.

    On a practical level, we want to help you separate your work life from your home life, so you don’t bring negative emotions home. It’s hard to let go of the day’s emotional toll when you’re a first responder. We’ll help you find ways to decompress to be present with your loved ones. This way, you can leave work without taking it home with you. You can get your sense of peace back when you take off your uniform.

    Using EMDR For First Responders

    The main form of treatment that we use for first responders with PTSD is called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing). The goal of EMDR is to process the memories that you never had time to think about it. Using a series of gentle stimulation techniques, such as tapping and side-to-side eye movements, your therapist will help you neutralize the pain of traumatic memories so that they no longer feel present in your life. In other words, EMDR takes the emotion out of trauma. As a result, you can recall painful memories without feeling overwhelmed or upset. One of the best parts about it is that you do not necessarily have to share the details of your trauma. Through EMDR the details can remain yours, but you will still feel a life changing healing from it. Healing from trauma isn’t always easy, but with the right tools, resources, and emotional support, it is 100\% possible. Just as your job is to help people in crisis situations, our job is to help you manage the difficult emotions that come with your daily stressful work. We are the first responders to your healing trauma.

    You May Have Some Concerns About Therapy for First Responders…

    I’m worried that my therapist won’t understand what I do.

    As a first responder, Kethlin Graham understands all the anxiety, fatigue, numbness, and heartache that come with frontline work. Additionally, many of our team members took courses about counseling for first responders. As a practice, we are open to feedback to ensure that we meet your needs.

    What if my agency judges me for seeking counseling? 

    Your chain of command never has to know about your time in counseling. The work we do is 100% confidential. If your agency grants you an EAP (Employee Assistance Program), you can use it to work with any therapist in your network. Your agency will generally grant you a few free sessions, but the agency doesn’t have to know what these sessions are used for; we will help you identify who is safe and not to share your information with.

    Because of my crazy schedule, I don’t think a counselor could accommodate me.

    We know how erratic life as a first responder can be. We know that serious calls can come in at random times. That’s why we try to be as flexible as possible with scheduling (we even have weekend availability). Your therapist will make it a priority to accommodate your unpredictable schedule.

    Even Heroes Needs a Helping Hand.

    You may have signed up for a job that requires you to save people’s lives, but your life is just as valuable; therefore, you can get help and support for yourself. If you want to talk to a first responder therapist, we encourage you to email us  or call 561-571-1557 for a free, 10- to 15-minute phone consultation.