How CBT Can Help in Treating Trauma in First Responders

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) occurs in some individuals when traumatic events in their lives cause mental health issues. It is particularly common in first responders because these professionals are likely to witness traumatic events as part of their everyday job duties. In fact, an estimated 30 percent of first responders experience behavioral health issues.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one type of treatment that is often effective at helping resolve PTSD in professionals like EMTs, firefighters, and police officers. It’s important that first responders and their loved ones are informed about what PTSD and CBT are. PTSD can cause those exposed to trauma to struggle in both their professional and personal lives. For this reason, it’s important for a professional working as a first responder to be able to recognize this condition and to understand what types of treatment are used for it.


Often, the most difficult step for a first responder to overcome PTSD is simply recognizing that they are suffering from the condition. Those working as first responders are often so focused on helping others that they overlook their own struggles when they need help. They also might struggle to recognize PTSD because they feel that discussing their condition might compromise their career or cause them to appear weak among their colleagues.

Professionals such as EMTs and firemen are essential to the safety of our society. An individual working as a first responder needs to seek PTSD treatment when necessary when they need it for the sake of public safety. It’s therefore important that we learn how to recognize PTSD in first responders.

Mental health professionals such as psychologists and psychiatrists diagnose PTSD when they see a characteristic grouping of symptoms. In addition to experiencing trauma in the recent past, affected individuals also often demonstrate avoidance of situations where experiencing similar trauma is likely. Individuals with PTSD also often experience flashbacks or an inability to stop thinking about and reliving a traumatic event in their past. Other common symptoms of PTSD are depression, anxiety, stress, insomnia, and feelings of guilt.


Fortunately, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often highly successful at treating PTSD and reducing its symptoms. CBT focuses on achieving various goals for afflicted individuals. Typically, a patient undergoing CBT for PTSD will have treatment sessions once a month with a therapist. During these sessions, the therapist will target the exact symptom that the patient is experiencing. For example, the therapist may prescribe medications or therapies to help treat insomnia or anxiety specifically.

The therapist will also counsel the patient. The therapist will ask the patient to focus on what situation or thought process is leading to the somatic responses of PTSD. The therapist will help the patient to focus his or her thoughts. The therapist educates the patient regarding coping mechanisms. Therapy focuses on dissuading patients from resorting to negative means of coping with symptoms like consuming alcohol or panicking. The therapist might use techniques including fitness programs, meditation, and controlled breathing as part of therapy.


CBT is typically a short-term treatment method. However, it has consistently been shown to lead to numerous improvements in PTSD patients including less stress, greater ease with falling asleep, a better mood overall, and lower cortisol levels in the body. All of these factors come together to help the afflicted patient resolve their PTSD and go on with their lives.

The number one concept to stress in any discussion of PTSD and first responders is that first responders should be encouraged to speak up about their condition. The more proactive, responsive, and understanding we are as a society when it comes to treating first responders with PTSD, the safer and healthier our communities will be.

If you are struggling with PTSD, then reach out to us! We’re are the only treatment center in the country that is solely based around first responders. Contact us today at First Responders First to speak to a professional and get help!