First responders save lives, but they're also involved in and witness events that cannot easily be forgotten. Without the proper treatment, the helpers can become the victims as debilitating trauma causes both you and your loved ones to suffer.
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First Responders and Trauma
More than 80% of first responders experience traumatic events while on the job. As a result, nearly one-third of them develop behavioral health conditions, most commonly PTSI, and depression. Without the right therapy and treatment, those health conditions can destroy the lives of those who have chosen to save others.
Fortunately, the right treatment can go a long way toward ensuring that this doesn't happen. EMDR therapy is an especially common and beneficial means of treating the trauma of first responders like police officers, firefighters, and medical personnel.
What is EMDR Therapy?
EMDR treatment describes a course of action specifically designed to help with trauma. EMDR is short for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. The idea is that if your eyes move in a certain way while you process traumatic memories, you'll allow your brain to process the traumatic memory more naturally.
EMDR is a relatively new therapy method, with the first clinical trial happening in 1989. But studies are increasingly supporting its premise and promise. EMDR therapists around the world now use it to treat anxiety, depression, addictions, and of course post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI). Especially EMDR therapy for first responders tends to be a great fit for supporting mental health recovery.
How Does EMDR Therapy Work?
EMDR for first responders is based on the Adaptive Information Processing model, first developed by Francine Shapiro. Shapiro posits that the brain stores traumatic memories in a different way than it stores non-traumatic, normal memories.
Normal memories are stored in a typical process in which the brain connects the memory with other memories already existing in the brain. But for traumatic memories, this step doesn't happen. Because the memory doesn't connect to other mental notes and memories in your brain, it cannot heal or reconcile what happened properly.
Understanding the Ramifications
However, new memories made after the initial traumatic event will still connect to it, worsening it over time. Each time a new memory, like sight or sound, enters the brain, it triggers the traumatic memory, leading to flashbacks or anxiety attacks.
Finding Traumatic Memories
EMDR seeks to restore these traumatic memories to their rightful place. First responders undergoing treatment are asked to activate their negative and traumatic memories and a feeling they have associated with this memory. Once they do, their provider will ask them to formulate a positive belief about themselves, while their eyes move side to side bilaterally.
Moving Toward Positivity
Each set of movements guides the responder's brain more towards the positive belief they'd like to have about themselves, gradually negating the negative effects of the traumatic memory in the process.
What is EMDR Therapy Used For?
EMDR is specifically designed to manage and treat any health concern related to the memory of traumatic events like those experienced commonly by police officers and other first responders. Most commonly, its methods are applied to first responders who suffer from post-traumatic stress injury due to the highly stressful nature of their work.
But the same therapy can also help with other concerns related to trauma, including:
The key to treating any of these disorders is to not just try to manage the symptoms, but find and eliminate the root cause responsible for those symptoms. By helping patients to access and remove the traumatic effects of disturbing memories, EMDR can help with any disorder for which a memory like this was likely to be the root cause.
The Benefits of EMDR Therapy
When administered by credible professionals, EMDR therapy comes with immense benefits that can help first responders who have experienced traumatic events to go back to a healthy and happy life.
A wide range of medical studies have found significant positive effects of the treatment:
In one study, 90% of trauma patients no longer had PTSI after completing just three sessions.
Effect Against All Types of Trauma
In another study, 77% of multiple-trauma victims (and 100% of single-trauma victims) needed only six sessions to remove their PTSI.
High Success Rates
Finally, a study found that 77% of veterans who suffered PTSI in combat were healed from it after 12 sessions.
How EMDR Therapy Can Help First Responders Recover from Trauma
EMDR therapy is especially beneficial for first responders because of the way it attacks the traumatic memories that may be the cause of sleepless nights or harmful thoughts and actions.
It removes the triggers that can otherwise cause flashbacks and panic attacks, normalizing the events that cause the memories. It can also help patients navigate out of circular thinking patterns, which are common among trauma victims and can leave them feeling helpless. Finally, it will improve your self-image, which is especially important if the traumatic memory is connected to feelings of self-doubt.
Perhaps most importantly, EMDR can be successful without much talking or extensive conversations, making it easier for victims of trauma to decide to receive treatment. Its results are relatively fast compared to other methods of therapy, and the same treatment can be used multiple times for future traumatic events--which are, unfortunately, common for most first responders.
Recover From Your Trauma as a First Responder With Command Post Wellness
First responders are among the heroes of modern society. But the events they witness in the line of duty can leave them traumatized and in need of external help. When the helpers become the victims of trauma, whether that trauma results in PTSI or another disorder, EMDR therapy can help.
At Command Post Wellness, we specialize in helping first responders find and succeed on the road to recovery. Our residential and outpatient treatment programs include EMDR, but we will work with every first responder to find a course of action designed to succeed. The well-being of our first responders is our priority.
Our Modern-Day Heroes
First responders and public safety employees are our modern-day heroes, which can come at a significant psychological price. The first responder regularly experiences on-the-job trauma in which risking their lives daily is just part of the job.
We have a team which assists first responders on a path to healing through innovative therapeutic modalities. Command Post Wellness prioritizes the mental health of our first responders and public safety employees.
To learn more about if Command Post Wellness is right for you,
and what to expect, contact us Today!