Kim understands firsthand the impact that work-related trauma can have on a family. She saw it in her marriage to a first responder. And she sees it as a therapist who has been practicing for almost three decades.
“A person with a career of emergency calls has accumulated trauma that builds up to cause intense symptoms,” she said. “It's hard to work and it's hard to be home. It's hard to remember things and concentrate and make decisions. They're irritable, they're sad and depressed and anxious, and it's hard just to function on a daily level.”
Kim began referring her clients to The 11th Hour Trauma Retreat, which offers intensive therapy to first responders and military personnel suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other trauma. Once there, her clients spend a full week undergoing treatment, all of which can be paid for by California’s workers compensation system.
It’s a therapeutic approach that has helped scores in public safety recover from job-related trauma, return to their profession and lead healthier lives. “I'm just so grateful to have the resource,” Kim said. “The ability to go and get that treatment quickly, over a short period of time, is what we want to do for somebody suffering so intensely.”
Rachael Starr, founder of The 11th Hour, said that she often works with licensed therapists like Kim to provide clients with an immediate and effective intervention.
Police, firefighters, dispatchers and others who visit The 11th Hour have accommodations and transportation handled for them, and all receive a custom therapy plan. They then work one-on-one with a licensed therapist. Some also receive Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy, or EMDR, a well-established technique that helps people better process and then transcend traumatic events.
“We give men and women in public safety a place where they can get intensive therapy almost immediately,” Starr said. “Weekly therapy is important, but it is not always enough to address a professional with a decade or more of accumulated trauma. The retreat model provides a unique approach, which then tees nicely into their work with a therapist back home.”
Kim agrees that the continuity of care is one major advantage of working with The 11th Hour. “The people that I have sent have been in treatment with me, and then come back to treatment with me,” she said. “So there was a nice smooth transition between the two different treatment modalities.”
One common problem with treating first responders is that triggers can be found everywhere. “Firefighters often live in the community where they work,” Kim said. “So they pass places where they've been on calls, they hear sirens, they have heightened hyper vigilance and all those things make it difficult to function.”
Trauma can also extend far beyond the workplace. First responders have childhood issues. They have families and mortgages. They are parents and spouses. Some struggle with substance abuse or other diagnoses that can complicate treatment.
At the same time, many also have difficulty asking for help. At work, the culture does not always support mental health measures. At home, families often cannot relate to the intense situations experienced by those who work in public safety. The therapists at The 11th Hour all have years of experience treating first responders. Kim said it makes a world of difference.
“These are difficult situations in that it's hard for the person going through it. It's painful and it's vulnerable,” she said. “Rachael puts people at ease. That’s the feedback I get. You're coming into open arms, and you feel immediately comfortable.”
While many departments have made serious progress providing mental health support, Kim says further recognition is needed that PTSD is likely to be a “normal situation” for many who work in public safety for years. Immersive therapy, she says, should be an enduring part of the solution.
“My ultimate hope is that it will just be part of the process,” she said. “You keep your body in shape by going to regular workouts. You go to your continued education classes and you get your training and certification. You stay up on your mental health by handling the PTSD, and that's a normal part of the job. We have to have some form of treatment available for men and women so they can have a balanced family life, so they aren't losing sleep or being haunted by their job.”
The 11th Hour Trauma Retreat serves first responders and military personnel on a referral basis, working with therapists, doctors, police departments, fire departments and other public agencies to provide people with the care they need. To learn more about our program, or to refer someone, call (772) 837-5988 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s talk.