To work at the Meier Clinics was a dream of mine as I have been reading Dr. Meier’s books for 20 years. So when I had the opportunity to train in the Catalyst program in 2016, I jumped at the chance. Early on in my training with Dr. Keith Cobern, Dr. Meier, and the treatment team at Catalyst, I became very interested in trauma and its effects on the brain and relationships. Once I became a fully licensed LPC and LMFT, I became more aware of the need for clinicians who are competent in working with first responders. This population is close to my heart because I am married to a firefighter/paramedic. It is also my belief that first responders such as law enforcement, firefighters, and EMTs are part of God’s plan to suppress evil on earth and provide mercy and protection. It is my honor to serve them and their families when they are in need.
For the purpose of this article, I am defining first responders as firefighters, paramedics, EMTs, law enforcement (including local and federal), corrections officers, and 911 dispatch operators. The lifestyles of these professions come with their own unique challenges for the first responder and their families. Much of my perspective has come from clinicians in the field who have been working with this population for decades including but not limited to Dr. Tania Glenn, Code 4 Couples, Cyndi Doyle (LPCS, NCC, CDWF, CCISM), Dr. E. C. Hurley (DMin, Ph.D.) and organizations like 22Kill and Blue Help.
If you are interested in working with this population, I highly recommend you seek out specialized training, articles, and resources to begin exploring if you, your modality and style are the right fit. Just like working with most trauma (abuse, complex, single event) as a clinician, it is important we have the composure to work with stories and events that can be difficult to hear and process. Our reactions to what we may hear can be crucial for treatment. In order to explore if you are a good fit for this population, seek out opportunities to do a “ride-along” with the first responder community in your area. This will give you first-hand experience with what their shift is like. Even though I am married to a firefighter/paramedic, having first-hand experience in a different city with a busy ambulance taught me so much more about what life is like on the front lines and in the firehouse.
When working with these clients it is important to be clear about the process, in the first responder world there are often protocols and procedures and that is often what they are expecting in counseling. Be direct and clear about what to expect, this population depends on the clinician to “know what you are doing, know their world and know what comes next.”
As Jesus said in Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” So, in this work for the community, we are ministering to the sons of God.