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What to Expect Before Starting Therapy

What to Expect Before Starting Therapy


By Liz Talago, Acadia Healthcare

If you’ve never received professional mental healthcare before, you likely have many questions about how treatment can help those in your profession. Fortunately, there are clinicians who offer trauma-informed care that takes into account the unique recovery needs of first responders.

[Related: Customized Care Can Help First Responders in the Aftermath of Trauma]

Effective treatment for first responders will be tailored to the specific needs of the individual, and will include a variety of therapies shown to be effective at addressing trauma. Often, first responders struggle with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and require specialized services to address this condition.

[Related: The Challenge of Recognizing PTSD in Firefighters]

Specialized care for first responders is available in both residential and outpatient forms, and can assist you or a colleague in returning to your work, family, and community with new tools to manage your symptoms. Depending on the program you choose, you will likely have access to many of the following:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Trauma-informed behavioral therapies
  • Family supports
  • Experiential therapies
  • Substance abuse programming
  • Medication management
  • Thorough aftercare planning

The Benefits of Specialized Treatments

There are seemingly countless types of therapies and treatment programs available today, ranging from traditional talk therapy in a one-on-one setting, to topic-specific group counseling. These time-tested interventions have proven to be effective for many people throughout the world, but sometimes, the treatment needs of a first responder can require a different approach.

First responders suffering from symptoms of trauma exposure and PTSD can benefit from an individualized treatment planning process that includes trauma-informed and experiential therapies.

[Free Download: Understanding and Managing Law Officer Stress]

Trauma-informed care takes into account the many ways that PTSD can manifest at home, in one’s community, and on the job, and focuses on uncovering the root causes of triggers and other symptoms. Armed with this knowledge, participants work to manage their emotions, and strengthen their coping and self-soothing tools.

Many first responders suffer from the physical and emotional effects of trauma. So participating in experiential therapies involving physical exercise (i.e. yoga or animal-assisted therapy) or artistic pursuits (i.e. music or art therapy) can be especially helpful in fostering connective healing in the mind, body, and spirit.

As you prepare to engage with these services, keep an open mind and pay attention to how you feel before, during, and after the activity. You might be surprised at just how much you benefit from these types of supports.

Take the First Step Towards Recovery

If you or a fellow first responder is in need of professional help to address symptoms of trauma or PTSD, know that help is available. Remember that there are mental health professionals who are capable of understanding your unique needs and have experience treating other first responders.

With the right program, you can begin to heal, and begin to live a life without the negative effects of trauma or PTSD.

About the Author: Liz Talago is a writer with Acadia Healthcare and a subject matter expert in the areas of wellness and mental health. Acadia Healthcare works in partnership with Treatment Placement Specialists (TPS) and The Refuge, A Healing Place, to meet the treatment needs of first responders and other public safety professionals. Liz earned her Master’s degree in counseling from the University of Montana, and has extensive experience supporting individuals and families as they navigate entering treatment and the eventual transition out of residential care. Outside of her work with Acadia, Liz enjoys travel, art, and spending time with her friends and family. To contact the author, email IPSauthor@apus.edu.



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