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Benefits of therapy for first responder families

Learn how therapy can improve communication, provide a safe place for family members to share and gain real-world coping mechanisms

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Therapy can help first responder families understand how their loved one’s profession affects them, learn healthy coping mechanisms and how to engage in open communication.

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If you’ve ever thought, “I wonder if therapy would help,” “Maybe he needs therapy,” or “Does my kid need therapy?” and you’re curious about how therapy services might be helpful to your first responder family this is for you!

Click here for a 23-minute podcast (or listen below) from American Military University called “Counseling Can Help Build a Family’s Resiliency,” which discusses how therapy might be worth it for your family unit. If you have a moment of quiet on a drive or while doing things around the house please take a listen.

Here’s a summary of what’s discussed.


Of course, therapy can always help support us through the ups and downs of the daily grind of raising a family and maintaining a marriage. Beyond that though, sometimes the stress experienced by your first responder can also have an impact on you and your kids. This can be from the way the abnormal schedule impacts your family, from hearing bits and pieces of the terrible things they deal with on the job, from the endless worries about their safety, or the common symptoms found in first responders such as:

  • Difficulties sleeping/concentrating

  • Social Isolation

  • Disinterest in activities they use to enjoy

  • Increased Irritability/anger

  • Emotional detachment

To answer your question “How can therapy help?” here are some ways it might be helpful to you and your family.

  1. Improves effective and helpful communication within the family, for example helping the couple come up with ways things can be communicated to one another that meets the needs of the spouse and the first responder.

  2. A therapist provides an objective point of view of the family dynamic and gives an outside perspective of what might improve things

  3. Provides a safe place for each person to share their perspectives

  4. Helps to improve your patterns as a family. As parents, you’re always modeling for your children when it comes to outlook on life, communication, relating patterns and problem-solving strategies. By improving your own life, you’re also going to improve theirs in the long run.

  5. Help individuals find more positive coping strategies to deal with stressors and/ or difficult calls from work.

  6. Can help adults find ways to communicate to their children about important events and to get on the same page about what information is communicated to the child.

  7. Can help kids cope with challenging situations or fear around their parent’s profession

If you’re interested in finding therapy for yourself, your police or firefighter, or your child from a therapist that understands the day-to-day of a first responder family, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’m a child and family psychologist located in Livermore, California. If you’re not local I have online therapy capabilities and can treat individuals residing within California. I’d be happy to briefly discuss your specific situation over the phone to see if therapy would be useful for your family. Feel free to call today!

If you’re not local and would like to find a therapist for your family check out this search engine for therapists in your area or contact your Insurance or department’s Employee Assistance Program or HR to see who’s covered for your family. Click here for more ideas on how to find your first responder family support.

Dr. Rachelle Zemlok is a licensed clinical psychologist in California, specializing in work with first responder families. She serves as the strategic wellness director at Lexipol, supporting the content and strategy related to first responder mental health and wellness, with a special focus on supporting spouses and family members through the Cordico Wellness App. Prior to joining Lexipol, Zemlok founded First Responder Family Psychology, which provides culturally competent therapy to first responders and their family members. She is the author of “The Firefighter Family Academy: A Guide to Educate & Prepare Spouses for the Career Ahead.” For more information on Dr. Zemlok or to connect with her please visit her website.