Welcome First Responders

Your First Stop for First Responders


Save the dates

  • October 6-12, 2019: National Fire Prevention Week
  • October 28th , 2019: National First Responder Day
  • May 10-16, 2020: National Police Week
  • May 17-23, 2020: National EMS Week

EAP Services

The Counseling Associates proudly participates in the Employee Assistance Program for several local first responder agencies including but not limited to:

  • Collier County Sheriff Department
  • North Collier Fire and Rescue (We administer the full EAP)
  • Lee County Government including EMS

Services Specifically for First Responders

  • Couples/Family
  • Trauma/PTSD
  • Processing Critical Incidents
  • 1st Responder Grieving
  • Conflict Resolution/Communication


Along with the extensive list of services we provide, we also offer specific therapy treatments and techniques that are specialized for the treatment of traumas, family problems, and career challenges. The Counseling Associates offers an array of post critical incident treatments, along with accumulative trauma exposure treatments, that keep the first responder’s uniqueness in mind. Some of these services include the following:

  • Desensitization Therapy
  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy
  • EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
  • VRT - Virtual Reality Therapy
  • First Responder specific grieving techniques
  • Canine Therapy
  • Grounding and Relaxation Techniques
  • Work Place Communication and Conflict Resolution Techniques
  • SIT- Stress Innoculation Therapy
  • TFT/EFT – Thought Field Therapy and Emotional Freedom Techniques
  • Bilateral Stimulation Therapy
  • And other specific treatment modalities


Adrenal Fatigue is a common problem that particularly affects first responders due to the constant high level of arousal they experience in their work. What to look for: increase in general fatigue, salt cravings, carb cravings, unexplained hair loss, “brain fog”, poor sleep, unexplained dizziness or lightheadedness, dark eye circles, weight gain, and energy crashes. AF is very common and typically easily treated.

Post Critical Incident Cognitive Distortions are also normal and extremely common. Cognitive thought distortions often affect a large portion of first responders, and are a normal response to experiencing events which are abnormal for most individuals (who are not first responders). Every first responder will experience them slightly differently. The majority of the time they can be worked through, and life will return to normal. However, they can also create significant distress for the first responder. Therapy can substantially help with processing and coping with such cognitive distortions.

Warning signs and symptoms to watch for

There are several warning signs and symptoms that a first responder may experience that suggest seeking help may be beneficial. These symptoms cannot be simply turned off, but with proper treatment, the causing factor or factors for the changes can be overcome and stability can be re-established. These signs and symptoms may be seen in a coworker as well. Trauma can be minor to severe, and it can be acute or accumulative over time.

Physical Cognitive/Mental Emotional Behavioral
  • Chills
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Grinding teeth
  • Headaches
  • Muscle tremors
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Profuse sweating
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Twitches
  • Weakness
  • Blaming someone, including self
  • Change in alertness
  • Confusion
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Increased or decreased awareness of surroundings
  • Intrusive images
  • Memory problems
  • Nightmares
  • Poor abstract thinking
  • Poor attention
  • Poor concentration
  • Poor decision making
  • Poor problem solving
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Apprehension
  • Denial
  • Depression
  • Emotional shock
  • Fear
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Grief
  • Guilt
  • Inappropriate emotional response
  • Irritability
  • Loss of emotional control
  • Increased alcohol consumption
  • Antisocial acts/actions which desregard others
  • Change in activity
  • Change in communication
  • Change in sexual functioning
  • Change in speech pattern
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Inability to rest
  • Change in appetite
  • Pacing
  • Startle reflex intensified
  • Suspiciousness
  • Social withdrawal

Critical Incident Induced Distortions, Reactions and Phases of the 1st Responder

There are 4 primary cognitive distortion categories that critical incidents can create. They can range in severity for each person experiencing the distortion. Such distortions are normal reactions for first responders.

  • Time Distortions - Recall of the immediate situation/event can be in either slow motion or sped up
  • Sensory Distortions - Two types of sensory distortion are tunnel vision or tunnel hearing
  • Perceptual Distortions - “Robot Detachment” or having an “out of body” experience
  • Memory Distortion - Recalling only one part, only a few parts, last part, or flashbulb of the incident(s)

Post critical incident exposure, there are three typical reaction phases first responders may experience. The different phases are normal and are experienced differently by each person.

  • Impact Phase - Experiencing an “Adrenaline Rush” during the situation, then quickly crashing/li>
  • Remorse Phase - Having guilt or the “what ifs” and “should haves” thoughts - becoming hard on self/li>
  • Acceptance Phase - Coming to terms with the outcome of the situation

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