By Vanessa Stapleton – President Armor Up West Virginia
With COVID 19 comes a wave of therapists offering Telehealth and online counseling. Telehealth and online counseling services are wonderful for rural areas like WV. In most of our small towns, there are therapists available. It is important to know that not all therapy is the same.
For example, in our small town, I do not refer to local services simply because the results do not prove to be effective. Two of our local first responders who sought local therapy ended up severely over medicated. Both first responders had to be sent out to be detoxed then get the trauma treatment they never received locally. It is for that reason that people in our small town must drive anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half to see a therapist who is trained in trauma and first responders. For these people, Telehealth is fantastic and saves them two to three hours of driving.
However, with all great things comes the negative. The downfall to all this Telehealth is that not all therapists are trained to handle the level of trauma of a first responder. Not all therapists understand the devastating effects being a first responder has on their mental health and family life. We had a first responder tell us that when they went to their first therapy appointment, they stated they were suicidal. The therapist gave them several highly addictive medications and scheduled them to come back three weeks later. That is an example of a therapist who should not be treating first responders with PTSD and suicidal ideations.
The importance of a good and highly trained therapist cannot be overlooked. We research our vacation destinations, hotels, restaurants, dentists, and even our doctors. We check their reviews, ask our friends, check social media, and investigate every detail. It is surprising that we will settle for any therapist without researching. Most of the time, we pick a therapist based on location regardless of if they even can handle the issues causing us to seek therapy. Other times, we pick a therapist simply because they are covered by our insurance. Again, we don’t stop to research if they can handle the issues we need them to help us work through.
It is time for us to take as much care of our mental health as we do everything else in our lives. It is time for us to seek a therapist who is suited for our needs. Organizations like Safe Call Now and Serve and Protect have existed for years to help our first responders with this very issue. For many years, they have been finding therapists across the country who are qualified to handle issues like PTSD, trauma, and suicidal ideations. Our first responders should not be googling therapists and just picking one from a random list that pops up. Many therapists aren’t even trained to handle severe issues like suicidal ideations. We also want to be cautious of therapists who medicate with multiple medications, but are not offering alternative solutions for our first responders such as grounding techniques, teaching mindfulness, and many other techniques which prove to be effective tools.
I did cognitive behavioral therapy for years. Basically, we talked. This past year, I started therapy with a trauma therapist. The difference is so vast that it would take me days to write about it. I have learned so many techniques to help me stay grounded and calm when I begin to feel my PTSD escalating. I never learned those techniques from my other therapist. She was an excellent therapist at helping me understand things. However, given the level of trauma I was exposed to, a trauma therapist has benefitted me so much more. I am learning tools to help myself at home. I am learning to control my own emotions that I had been unable to control previously. I have progressed tremendously. I have learned techniques to bring my mind back into focus when it gets carried away. This is a prime example of why we need a therapist suited to our needs.
If you are a first responder or first responder family who needs assistance through therapy, please use the organizations who have existed and succeeded at doing this for many years. They exist for a reason, to help you.
If you, someone you love or someone you know needs help, call:
Safe Call Now: 24 Hour Confidential Hotline: 206-459-3020
For more information on the First Responders program: Click here
Or call Shannon Clairemont at 661-466-6352 or Vanessa Stapleton at 304-651-3008