Helping First Responders Heal, Overcome Struggles, and Build Resilience
First responders are a group of remarkable individuals who present a set of unique needs all their own. In addition to work culture, not many understand, the distinctive demands of their job. This can cause rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidality at strikingly higher rates than the general population.
They are also a group that tends to reach out the least for help. As perspectives toward mental health services begin to shift, we find that it is our bravest, strongest, and most exposed men and women that are being left behind.
Occupational norms like sleep deprivation, time away from family, high-stress situations, and unrelenting exposure to the worst days of most people’s lives slowly chip away at the foundation of who these courageous individuals are. What is often left behind are feelings of sadness, anger, pain, and disconnection from the people and things that they love the most.
“Suck it up.” “If you can’t handle it, you shouldn’t be in this job.” “You knew exactly what you were signing up for.” It is statements like these that pervade the first responder culture and are a remnant of the “old crusty” days when it was a sign of weakness to ask for help. Well, we know better now, and we finally know how to help with counseling for first responders in Fort Lauderdale and Coral Springs, FL.
Why is Counseling for First Responders in Fort Lauderdale and Coral Springs
First Responders are designated professionals trained to respond immediately to an accident, emergency, or natural disaster. They include active or retired Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), firefighters, paramedics, law enforcement officers, and armed forces. These men and women are courageous heroes who put themselves at risk on a daily basis in order to serve and protect our community.
The courageous men and women who serve as first responders are exposed to a variety of situations ranging from car accidents to violent events to tragic disasters. These experiences range from mild to severe. Although some events may not directly affect first responders, other events can take a toll on the mental, emotional, and physical health of first responders.
First responders are exposed to countless tragic and traumatic events. Over time, this can lead to mental health symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which may include:
Being on edge and easily startled
Having extreme mood swings
Avoiding people, places, or situations
Feelings of worry and guilt
While many responders shy away from the antiquated, but the still pervasive stigma of seeking mental health services, counseling for first responders in Coral Springs and Fort Lauderdale, FL can have a lasting positive effect on the lives of the people who have given up so much to be our guardians and protectors. Working with a therapist for first responders has consistently been shown to improve mood, concentration, motivation, sleep, and relationships while decreasing anxiety, depression, anger, guilt, and pain.
You have already sacrificed your time, safety, and personal lives; you don’t have to sacrifice your mental health too.
Countless hours and finances are dedicated to protecting your physical well-being on the job. Tactical training, protective gear, running scenarios, and upgrading equipment. How many resources are committed to safeguarding your mental health? Perhaps a mandatory in-service from some outside agency once a year or a brief class in the academy. Though many departments are beginning to bulk up their efforts to address emotional resilience, most responders are on their own in seeking help for first responders' trauma and just the everyday rigors of their roles and responsibilities.
How would it feel to love your job again? Or how might it be to become as fully present at home as you are at work? What would it be like to not feel angry, cynical, detached, and tired all the time?
Seeking therapy is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of tremendous strength and integrity.
Being true to yourself, being true to the people you love, being true to the dedicated and hopeful responder you were the first day you walked on to the job. Every day your community is relying on you and you can rely on us.
Our Specialized Therapists for First Responder Are Here to Help You and Your Loved Ones...
Bayview Therapy psychologists and counselors are experienced, and passionate about the first responder population. We have a few clinicians who are "Certified First Responder Counselors".
Sara Speed, LMHC is located at our Coral Springs office. She has undergone highly specialized training and accreditation in working specifically with this group, in addition to nearly two decades of personal experience as a veteran and first responder spouse.
Heather Deecken, LCSW is located at our Fort Lauderdale office and is a certified first responder counselor who has extensive experience working with trauma/PTSD. She is passionate about helping those who help us. She offers EMDR for first responders and their loved ones.
First responders exist in a culture all their own and need someone who “gets them.” Whether it’s the unique lifestyle of shift work, the language, and humor of the job, or the relentless exposure to the worst sides of humanity, our therapists for first responders are here to listen. Specially trained in evidence-based and proven methods like EMDR therapy, DBT therapy, and CBT therapy, we have the tools to make a real difference.
Counseling for first responders in Coral Springs and Fort Lauderdale helps in the following ways:
Boost resilience and healthier ways to cope with work stress
Learn tools to better manage work and home life
Improve overall well-being and mental health
Experience more restful sleep, peace, and contentment
Improve communication and relationships with loved ones
EMDR for First Responders with Trauma and PTSD
Not many careers include experiencing trauma on a daily basis in their job description. First Responders are unique in the demands that are placed upon them and require a highly specialized approach in their treatment. This is where EMDR therapy comes in.
EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a highly researched and evidence-based approach proven to be effective in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and other symptoms associated with experiencing distressful life events. It is recognized by highly respected organizations like the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization, and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs/Department of Defense as an effective treatment for trauma.
So how does EMDR work?
EMDR activates the brain’s natural ability to heal and process information effectively which is often blocked and disabled by trauma. The technique uses bilateral stimulation (visual, auditory, or tactile stimuli delivered in a rhythmic left-right pattern) paired with a distressing memory, associated negative thoughts, and any discomfort in the body.
This combination allows the brain to reimagine the event in a healthier way and remove the pain and sensitivity related to it. For more information on how EMDR functions and what to expect in an EMDR session click here.
Why is EMDR Useful for First Responders?
EMDR is popular amongst first responders because it does not require one to speak in detail about the traumatic event or complete additional homework in-between visits. It focuses instead on the brain’s natural ability to heal itself and make sense of oneself and the world again.
Additionally, compared to other treatment modalities EMDR is considered a shorter-term approach and can often be completed in fewer sessions than traditional psychotherapy.
Why do first responders need EMDR?
There is no doubt that this group of individuals is exposed to disproportionate amounts of trauma on a regular basis including violence, death, and loss of comrades.
However, there is more to trauma than just that. They are also subject to vicarious trauma which involves repeatedly bearing witness to other people’s loss and despair. Responders often say that they are there on the worst day of people’s lives and it is important to understand that this too takes its toll.
And finally, the physical demands of the job including shift work, extended periods of hypervigilance, and high levels of stress are prone to cause trauma to the body as well.
Got More Questions About Therapy for First Responders?
How do I know that I need First Responder counseling?
The first question to ask yourself is, “Is what I’m doing now working?” If your current perspectives and coping strategies are leaving you feeling energized, connected, and content then therapy in Fort Lauderdale or Coral Springs may not be necessary at this time. However, if you are struggling at home or at work and cannot seem to turn it around on your own, this is the perfect time to seek help.
First responders (police officers, law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, and armed forces) are of course subject to the same struggles as everyone else. These may include depressed mood, nervousness or anxiety, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, insomnia, and relationship difficulties. However, they can also present a unique set of challenges all their own.
When stressors begin to overwhelm coping ability, it is common to see additional signs like escapist behaviors including excessive drinking or gambling, infidelity, and high-risk activities outside of work. First responders also experience extremely high rates of compassion fatigue, burnout, and vicarious trauma.
Symptoms can include aversion to going to work, reliving difficult calls, nightmares, avoidant behavior, and thoughts of suicide. Interpersonal problems like irritability, rage, detachment and domestic violence are also prevalent. If you are experiencing any of these things, it is time to get help.
Although there are many resources in our community that support First Responders and their families, such as the Broward Sheriff's Advisory Council, counseling with a First Responder counselor can help you and your loved ones get to a better place.
How confidential is confidential?
Privacy is important to everyone, but for first responders, it’s absolutely critical. When seeking counseling for first responders it is important to understand all the privileges and limitations of confidentiality.
First and foremost, none of the contents of your counseling sessions may be released to your job or family without your written express and informed consent. This includes identifying information, topics discussed, or details disclosed within any of your verbal or written communication (e.g. in-person sessions, virtual sessions, phone calls, emails, or texts).
An added benefit of seeking online therapy in Florida privately versus going through your insurance ensures that none of the aforementioned information will be shared with your employer, EAP, or a third-party payer. Many responders elect to pursue private therapy services for this very reason.
What if I’m not the only one suffering?
As most first responders understand, they are not the only ones that have to deal with the unique demands of this dangerous and stressful career. Oftentimes, spouses, children, friends, and other family members suffer the secondary losses of a responder and his/her job.
These can include fear of their loved one not coming home at night, missing out on holidays and special occasions, and feelings of helplessness watching their loved one experience the negative effects of their job. It is also common in first responder families to face infidelity, substance abuse, domestic violence, and divorce. Therefore, we offer support for spouses of first responders in Coral Springs and Fort Lauderdale.
Bayview Therapy has a team of qualified counselors with specialty focuses including couples counseling or marriage therapy, counseling for addiction and mental health concerns, and family therapy for first responders with children and teens. We have the ability to support your entire family system so that you can focus on yourself and get back to being the best parent, partner, friend, and responder you can be.
What can I expect from my first session?
The first counseling session will be spent gathering information and building a trusting relationship with your therapist for first responders. Forming a bond that allows for safety and confidence can take a bit longer with first responders due to the very nature of their jobs and the people and situations they encounter every day. These early sessions will allow for this process to take place at your own pace.
Then, determine your needs and what you hope to get out of therapy will be the next step of a successful journey. Subsequent sessions will depend on your personal experiences and will include the therapeutic interventions proven to be effective in addressing your concerns and meeting your desired outcome.
How will I know when I am done with counseling?
The length of therapy services will depend on your needs and expectations. We want you to heal and get back to life as soon as possible too, but counseling is a marathon, not a sprint. Some can feel noticeable relief within the first couple of sessions, while other issues like compound and complex trauma may take a bit longer.
The overall goal for all our first responders is symptom relief, improved resilience to future stressors, and optimal physical, emotional, and mental health. Specifically, we want you to love your work again, reconnect with your family, and achieve balance in all the roles of your life.
You sacrifice so much to do a job that most only dream of as little children. You deserve a life free of pain and suffering, and full of peace and contentment.
Don't Suffer in Silence, Let us Help You in Counseling for First Responders...
Don’t spend another moment suffering in silence. Call us today and let us help you so you can get back to doing what you do best, helping us. If you would like to learn more about first responder counseling at Bayview Therapy or want to schedule an appointment with one of our therapists or psychologists, call 954-391-5305. We offer a free 15-minute consultation. Our office is located in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and Coral Springs, FL.
To get started follow these steps:
Participate in a free consultation call with a skilled therapist to learn more about them and how we can support first responders at Bayview Therapy.
Begin recovering from trauma, anxiety, depression and begin to reduce any stress you may be experiencing.
We offer face-to-face sessions as well as online therapy in Florida via phone or video sessions on a secure, HIPAA-compliant platform. Our team of expert counselors in Fort Lauderdale and Coral Springs is here to help!
Additional Counseling Services at Our Coral Springs & Fort Lauderdale Offices
Bayview Therapy offers many services besides counseling for first responders in our Fort Lauderdale and Coral Springs offices. Regardless of what brings you into therapy, we are here to help you find guidance and relief. We hope to walk through is mental health journey beside you collaboratively and intentionally.
Our expert psychologists and counselors at Bayview Therapy specialize in different areas. We offer a wide range of counseling and psychological services to support our Fort Lauderdale, Davie, Pompano Beach, Coral Springs, Coconut Creek, and Parkland communities.
Additionally, we provide therapy and psychological evaluations for children, teens, and adults dealing with a wide variety of life's challenges across the lifespan. Some of our specialties include depression counseling; trauma therapy and EMDR therapy; DBT therapy, drug and addictions therapy, CBT therapy, teen counseling; child and family counseling; couples counseling or marriage therapy; and more.
We also provide affirmative counseling for the LGBTQ+ community and online counseling options using our secure HIPAA compliant platform. Additionally, we offer therapy for maternal mental health, faith-based counseling, ADHD testing, premarital counseling, and therapy for first responders. When you're ready to take the next steps and work on your mental health, we are here to serve you. Get in touch to begin your therapy journey.