It takes even more courage to ask for help than it does to face horror in our work... But you can do it!
Seeking Personal Help
By Jim Marshall
Watch the Scott Dorsey video about the Power of EMDR for a First Responder here
We have 911Pros and other responders out there who still believe PTSD isn't curable. Good News: They're wrong!
You can HEAL PTSD!
(And there's plenty of Big Relief for other Big Struggles too...)
First, if you or someone you care about are in crisis right now, consider reaching out to one of three groups below who are ready to help you 24/7/365. We know that while other citizens are apt to call 911 when they are struggling emotionally, that's a very hard thing for a 911Pro to do (even though you have every right to and your peers would probably want to be the first to help you). The main thing is to reach out when your gut tells you that you should. Connect with which ever group you feel most comfortable. While we don't officially endorse any provider of mental health support, here are some great options:
The Crisis Text Line: This is a group of trained volunteer crisis counselors who are there for you by texting around the clock to offer support for a huge range of struggles you might be having. Sometimes it just feels safer and more secure to text than call someone. Now you have that option. Check them out here.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL). Call 800.273.8255. This is a network of crisis centers across the U.S. staffed by trained workers who are also available 24/7. They also have an online chat option you can check out here. We know you may have hesitation about calling the NSPL based on your local work experiences with hotlines. Still, thousands of people have been helped by the NSPL folks. And remember: you can always connect with SafeCallnow or The Crisis Text Line instead. Just reach to someone!
It's so hard to reach out for help, especially for those of us who are usually taking care of everyone else in our lives. Since most 911 centers have been traditionally housed in, and a part of LEAs (Law Enforcement Agencies), dispatchers have traditionally adopted the old school paramilitary attitude about mental health counseling: "That therapy crap is for the weak. We've gotta be stronger than that!" Sadly, this old "Suck it up!" emotional code has likely contributed to sustained suffering and suicides among too many of our dedicated field responders.
Fortunately... although that old school mentality is still out there, the law enforcement profession has come along way in recognizing the mental health needs of our responders. Now, most of our big LEAs have psychologists on staff to provide assistance to their officers. In addition, nearly all emergency response organizations (or their governments) and our 911 dispatch authorities offer benefit packages that include Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) that pay for a certain amount of counseling per year. (Click here to learn more about EAPs.) At every training course I also emphasize the need for our telecommunicators to be aware of local clinicians who specialize in treating PTSD and more severe struggles our 911Pros face. So please read on...
Are you ready for relief?
EMDR: Our First Choice for Emergency Responders...
I urge you to explore an Evidence-Based Treatment (EBT) called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). It's one of only three therapies approved by the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Veterans Administration (VA) as effective in the treatment of PTSD. But it's also wonderfully helpful with a full range of issues including anxiety, phobias, depression and more. I've been using EMDR with my clients since 1990 and can attest to it bringing extraordinary relief and reclamation of life for so many. That's why I strongly encourage all our emergency responders to try at least a few sessions of EMDR treatment every two years to "clear out" those memories that resurface and feel awful.
To learn more about EMDR, you can visit www.emdria.org. And, in our new book, you'll find stories of real cases in which EMDR therapy provided huge relief to your 911 colleagues. (See The Resilient 9-1-1 Professional at the top of this page). Also, check out EMDR: The Hidden Gem of PTSD Treatment, an article in EMS World magazine in which flight nurse Krista Haugen describes her healing after a near fatal helicopter crash, and I share my clinical experience helping others with EMDR.
Helping you Find a Good Therapist: The EMDR Registry for 911
For years, I've been so grateful that 911Pros have let me personally bridge them to EMDR Therapists. This help is important in many cases to assure a fit for you with the right clinician and the best potential for healing. And so for non-emergent situations, I'll still do my best to help you make this connection when needed. (Email us at info@911Training.net. Your request for help will be treated as confidential.) But soon we'll have an additional resource to help you find qualified EMDR Therapists for 911Pros!
The more I've traveled, the greater the number of requests I receive from 911Pros seeking EMDR help. And there are approximately 180,000 frontline 911 professionals (and all the administrative personnel) in the U.S. alone. So as more of them learn about the hope of healing through EMDR, we need to be sure they too can easily connect with the right therapists.
That's why 911 Training (911TI) is reaching out to EMDR therapists throughout (and beyond) the U.S. to build The Registry of EMDR for 911 Telecommunicators. We must complete this project we began when I was chair of the 911 Wellness Foundation. (Click here to read our letter inviting qualified clinicians to join the Registry. This will help you understand the heart and substance of this project behind the scenes.) I'm grateful that we're now receiving responses from many outstanding, qualified and caring EMDR therapists from who want to join and help our 911Pros. We charge nothing for their membership; they just need to 1) show that they are properly training, 2) are willing to do a Sit-Along at their local 911 center, and 3) are willing read Reaching the unseen first responder: treating 911 trauma in emergency telecommunicators (a textbook chapter about the 911 telecommunicator's role, work demands and unique needs (Marshall and Gilman, 2015).
My 911TI staff and I have begun the process of reviewing applicants to identify those who meet the criteria to become Registry members. Once they are approved, we will publish the List of Approved EMDR Clinicians for 911 right here on our website. (This approval doesn't mean that 911TI endorses or is responsible for their clinical work. It does mean they have reported that they possess the right qualifications and the willingness to learn about 911 that can lead to great results in your treatment!
Here's how the Registry will Work...
Once the Registry is up and running our 911 Family members will be able to look for EMDR Therapists on the Registry by state and city, read a full description of their qualifications and a message they've written for you, to get a feel for if they will be a fit for you. That's our goal: the best chance at the best possible fit with a qualified therapist the first time around!
Check back soon to see the list. We'll try to publish it as soon as we possibly can. In the meantime (and even once you have the name of a clinician) consider using the questions below to call to check out that fit. But again, be sure to email us at info@911Training if you need help bridging to a qualified EMDR Therapist.
A few Questions to Ask Therapists before Deciding...
Whether you find your EMDR Therapist yourself, using the EMDRIA Find a Therapist search engine (here), or through our EMDR for 911 Directory once finished, don't hesitate to "vet" them before you decide to schedule an appointment. After all, this is an important decision and any therapist "worth their salt" should be willing to take five minutes to answer the questions you need to ask. If they won't, I advise 911Pros to "fire them before you hire them." (But be patient if it takes a day or two for them to call you back since they may be handling a lot of crises or taking a well-needed few days off! Here are the questions wise consumers should ask of any therapist to help make your decision.
1. After offering them a brief description of your counseling need (what you're struggling with and what you want to achieve), ask: "What is your training and experience in helping people with needs like mine?
NOTE: if your issue is related at all to your work as a 911Pro, ask them if they have experience treating 911 telecommunicators. If they don't bu tare willing to humbly learn and seem like a sharp and caring person, consider giving them a chance.
Then ask any of the following questions too:
2. "Is this an area of passion and specialty for you?"
3. "Briefly, what would your treatment approach be to helping me with this?" (that is, behavioral, cognitive, EMDR, other "modalities")
4. If spirituality is a central issue to you, you'll want to be sure there's a fit between you and the therapist so be clear in explaining your faith orientation and ask him about how he integrates faith into his therapy work.
5. "What are your credentials (education, practice license, affiliations with professional organizations)?
6. "What are your fees and do insurances cover your services?"
In talking with a therapist, you are looking for three things from and beyond these questions:
The person's attitude: willingness to cooperate, answer your questions, humility, degree of caring, etc.
Ability and competence to be effective in helping you
Your sense of "fit" with the clinician as a person. That is, how comfortable you would be working with him.
If you have tried following my guidance on this page to identify the right therapist and you're still not succeeding feel free to email me for help, Jim@911Training.net. Of course for emergency situations, call a 24/7 support line like SafeCallNow.org (see above) since they're always there! Above all, do NOT be ashamed of seeking help. You are courageous, and when you get relief you'll be glad you made this choice.
Finally, if you are a leader, co-worker or friend of a 911Pro in need of help, take courage and don't give up helping them reach professional help until they succeed. They deserve help just as much as all those souls they have helped on the job!
Feel free to email us if your questions are not answered by the information offered here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peace to you all!