EMDR Therapy for First Responders
I am experienced using EMDR therapy to treat first responders, including those in law enforcement, fire fighters, paramedics, military personnel and healthcare workers. Critical incidents at work can cause Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) lasting 2 to 30 days and Post traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) lasting more than 30 days. When first responders experience, witness, or are confronted with events on the job that involve death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of oneself or others a person responds with intense fear, helplessness, and horror. This can cause ASD and PTSD. First responders may constantly re-experience the traumatic memory and want to avoid situations associated with the event. They respond when triggered with a flight, fight, freeze response. First responders with Acute Stress Disorder or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can experience greater difficulty doing their jobs effectively. These symptoms can make it not only difficult for first responders to do their work or be on active duty but it can also impact their lives at home with family, friends and in the community.
Signs That You May Need Help
- Difficulty communicating thoughts
- Difficulty remembering instructions
- Difficulty maintaining balance
- Atypically argumentative or angry
- Difficulty making decisions
- Limited attention span
- Unnecessary risk-taking
- Disorientation or confusion
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of objectivity
- Easily frustrated
- Unable to engage in problem-solving
- Unable to let down when off duty
- Refusal to follow orders
- Refusal to leave the scene
- Increased use of drugs/alcohol
- Unusual clumsiness
What kinds of situations may increase a First Responders risk for developing a stress disorder?
First responders are exposed to highly stressful events in the course of their routine duties. There are specific situations that increase one’s vulnerability to traumatic stress: having no control over the volume of calls; having to continue responding to calls after an especially disturbing call; the cumulative effects of being in the service for a long time; being in a helpless situation in the face of overwhelming demands, such as a prolonged, failed, rescue; having a partner or a peer killed or seriously injured in the line of duty; the suicide of a peer; being at serious risk of injury in the line of duty; witnessing horrifying things; experiencing the death of a child in the line of duty; responding to a call for a victim who is known to the responder; working without the support of administration, or having administration question one’s actions in an investigation. (www.traumacenter.org)
What are the personal risk factors?
People who have experienced prior trauma are more vulnerable to PTSD than those who haven’t. This is significant for First Responders, who are constantly exposed to traumatic events. People exposed to trauma as children are at even greater risk for developing PTSD after a trauma in adulthood. There is some research indicating that females may be more vulnerable to PTSD than males. Experiencing a high level of physical and psychological hyper-arousal in the period immediately following a traumatic event may predispose a person to later PTSD. There is also evidence that experiencing dissociative symptoms and psychic numbing at the time of a traumatic event may put a person at increased risk for PTSD. Research has shown a connection between symptoms of depression in the initial weeks after the traumatic event as an indicator of increased risk for PTSD. Finally, experiencing Acute Stress Disorder predicts an increased risk for PTSD. (www.traumacenter.org)
When should a First Responder seek professional help?
With the support and care of family, friends and peers, many people are able to recover from the effects of a traumatic event. It is difficult to recover in isolation, though; the ability to accept support and help is essential to healing. People are sometimes able to recover from Acute Stress Disorder using their own coping skills and support from friends and family. If a month has passed since the event and you are still experiencing significant distress, this may signal Post traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a chronic, disabling stress disorder. EMDR therapy is a powerful fast acting treatment for PTSD and can help you return to optimal functioning both at work and at home.
EMDR is the most researched and widely accepted psychotherapeutic method for the treatment of PTSD.
EMDR therapy is recognized as an effective and efficient method of treatment by numerous government agencies and professional associations including the US Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, the National Health Service of the United Kingdom (NICE guidelines), the Israeli National Council for Mental Health, and many others.
I am part of the Trauma Recovery Network (TRN) of Western WA which is a network of EMDR Therapists prepared to assist survivors of natural or man-made disasters and first responders involved in these incidents from traumatic stress. To learn more about this network of EMDR therapists please visit this website-http://traumarecoverywa.org/