I began my career as a dispatcher/call-taker for police, fire, & ambulance service. I became a police officer, a member of the Critical Incident Stress Management and Peer Support Team. There, I gained valuable experience helping fellow first responders with their reactions to traumatic events, as well as the day-to-day wear and tear of the job.
My dad was an officer for almost 40 years so I grew up a policeman's daughter. This experience helps me understand what it's like to be affected by the police member's work.
I've also been happily married to an officer for 20 years (and counting!). Again, this gives me another perspective, another source of understanding.
I believe experience as a first responder and my work with them has been my greatest teacher. But I have also formally prepared to assist first responders to be mentally healthy. I earned a PhD in Counseling Psychology and an M.S. in Criminal Justice. I trained in EMDR, the recommended treatment for trauma. I studied factors that influenced officers' ability to cope with traumatic stress, factors that helped officers maintain work-life balance, and the decision-making processes of seasoned first responders regarding leaving the job. I've studied the work of others to better my understanding of the impact of the work to prepare compelling arguments for better services and coverage for mental injuries from the job.
My heart is in my work. When I was an officer and peer support team member, I found a shortage of mental health providers who understood the unique nature of the work. I realized my greatest contribution would be to fill this gap. I've taught other providers what I know about the first responder culture but there's no substitute for experience. I get it. I've had many roles in the last 20+ years in the profession: dispatcher/call-taker, victim services, police officer, and clinician. I've also had the benefit of decades of personal roles: daughter, wife, and friend of officers. All of these experiences have given me a well-rounded understanding of the impact of the work.