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 a work culture not many understand, the distinctive demands of their job 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.
Why is Counseling for First Responders
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), fire fighters, 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
Isolating from family and friends
Feelings of worry and guilt
Nightmares, flashbacks, or recurring thoughts of a specific event
While many responders shy away from the antiquated, but still pervasive stigma of seeking mental health services, counseling can have a lasting positive effect on the lives of the people who have given up so much to be our guardians and protectors. Therapy has consistently been shown to improve mood, concentration, motivation, sleep and relationships while decreasing anxiety, 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 inservice 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 trauma and just the everyday rigors of their roles and responsibilities.
How would it feel to love your job again? 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 First Responder Counselors Are Here to Help You and Your Loved Ones...
Bayview Therapy hosts a team of mental health professionals that are knowledgeable, experienced, and passionate about the first responder population. One of our clinicians in particular is a "Certified First Responder Counselor". Sara Speed, LMHC 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.
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, we are here to listen. Specially trained in evidence-based and proven methods like EMDR, DBT, and CBT, we have the tools to make a real difference.
Counseling can help first responders 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
Reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD
Have questions or concerns about anxiety treatment?
How do I know that I need 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 counseling may not be necessary at this time. However, if you are struggling at home or at work and cannot seem turn it around on your own, this is the perfect time to seek help.
First responders (police officers, law enforcement, fire fighters, 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.
How confidential is confidential?
Privacy is important to everyone, but for first responders it’s absolutely critical. When seeking counseling 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 therapy privately versus going through your insurance ensures that none of the aforementioned information will be shared with your employer, EAP or 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. Often times, 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.
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. 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, determining 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 First Responder 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, to reconnect with your family, and to 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...
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.
We offer face-to-face sessions as well as online therapy via phone or video sessions on a secure, HIPAA compliant platform. Our team of expert counselors in Fort Lauderdale and Coral Springs are here to help!
Additional Counseling Services at Our Coral Springs & Fort Lauderdale Offices
Anxiety therapy isn’t the only counseling and psychological service we provide in our Fort Lauderdale and Coral Springs offices. Sometimes life gets complicated and you or your family may struggle with more than one challenge. Keep in mined, you're not alone... no matter what you're going through, we're here to help!
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, Boca Raton, Coral Springs, Coconut Creek, and Parkland communities.
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; 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.