top of page

Therapy for First Responders/Frontline Workers

How First Responders Therapy in Toronto and across Ontario Can Help You Heal


You put your life on the line and put on a brave face in tough times...yet you are struggling yourself

The first responder and frontline worker population often faces cultural and internal struggles around asking for and receiving help. As a helping profession, first responders tend to bear the physical, mental, and emotional toll that comes with serving the public. Particularly since the pandemic, first responders and frontline workers (doctors/nurses) have faced increased occupational stress and burnout that has led to increased mental health concerns and presenting issues. 

You are not alone...many first responders struggle with their mental health

It has been estimated that approximately 85% of first responders have experienced symptoms related to their mental health.

First responders face unique challenges that can make it difficult for them to seek help. These individuals may feel like they are supposed to be strong and resilient, and may view seeking help as a sign of weakness. Additionally, they may be concerned about how their colleagues or employers will perceive them if they seek therapy.

First responders also have a high level of exposure to trauma, which can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. They may be exposed to a variety of traumatic events, such as accidents, natural disasters, acts of violence, and medical emergencies. Exposure to these types of events can lead to symptoms such as nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, and depression.


First responders:

  • are twice as likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than the general public

  • are more likely to die from suicide than from work-related death

  • face some related mental health struggle with 4 out of 5 having some significant mental health issue

  • are 5 times more likely to suffer from depression

  • are exposed to violence at greater numbers than the general public 

  • are more predisposed to suffer from addiction as a result of work-related stress (alcohol/drugs/sex/gambling)

You have witnessed some tragic, difficult events...which lead you to feel more powerless and numb to it all

  • death or work-related injuries

  • loss and grief from partner and colleagues

  • insomnia and difficulty sleeping

  • relationship or family conflict

  • difficulty managing and handling stress

  • withdrawing from others

  • difficulty concentrating

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a common challenge amongst first responders. Some common symptoms of PTSD include:

  • flashbacks and nightmares

  • intrusive thoughts/memories

  • increased alcohol or drug consumption

  • destructive sexual behavior (having affairs, carelessly having unprotected sex)

  • mood swings

  • detaching emotionally from others

  • avoidance of places associated with traumatic situation

  • difficulty recalling events

  • avoiding work

  • negative thoughts about oneself

  • feeling alone or isolated

  • hypervigilance

  • difficulty eating or sleeping

  • heightened or startled response

  • dissociation 

Frontline workers have faced increased pressure from the healthcare systems that often leads to:

  • increased stress and burnout

  • poor coping skills and self-care

  • difficulty prioritizing and concentration

  • increased alcohol and drug consumption

  • infidelity, divorce, and relationship conflict

  • porn and sex addiction

  • difficulty regulating emotions

Therapy for First Responders can be helpful in managing work and life stress and the pressures of your role

There are several approaches to therapy that can be effective for first responders. These include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT is a type of therapy that focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. It is often used to treat PTSD, anxiety, and depression. CBT can be particularly effective for first responders because it helps them identify and change negative thought patterns that may be contributing to their mental health issues.

  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is a type of therapy that is often used to treat PTSD. It involves a series of eye movements that are intended to help the individual process traumatic memories. EMDR can be particularly effective for first responders because it allows them to process traumatic experiences in a safe and controlled environment.

  • Mindfulness-based approaches

Mindfulness-based approaches, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), can help first responders learn how to manage stress and anxiety. These approaches can be particularly helpful because they teach individuals how to be present in the moment, which can help reduce feelings of anxiety and stress.

  • Trauma-focused therapy

Trauma-focused therapy is a type of therapy that is specifically designed to help individuals who have experienced trauma. This type of therapy can be particularly helpful for first responders who have been exposed to traumatic events. Trauma-focused therapy can help first responders process traumatic memories, learn coping skills, and reduce symptoms of PTSD.

  • Group therapy

Group therapy can be particularly helpful for first responders because it provides them with a safe and supportive environment to discuss their experiences. Group therapy can help first responders feel less isolated and can provide them with a sense of community. Additionally, group therapy can help first responders learn from each other and develop coping skills.

Despite more talk about mental health care, you may feel resistance to seeking help


  • Stigma: As mentioned earlier, there is still a stigma associated with mental health issues in many communities. This can make it difficult for first responders to seek help, as they may be worried about how their colleagues or employers will perceive them.

  • Limited access to mental health services: Some first responders may work in rural areas or areas with limited mental health resources. This can make it difficult for them to access therapy, especially if they are dealing with scheduling conflicts or other barriers to care.

  • Time constraints: First responders may have demanding schedules that make it difficult for them to attend therapy sessions. This can be especially true for those who work irregular hours or who are frequently on call.

  • Financial concerns: Some first responders may not have access to affordable mental health services. This can be a barrier to care, especially for those who do not have health insurance or whose insurance does not cover mental health services.

  • Concerns about confidentiality: First responders may be concerned about their privacy and confidentiality when seeking therapy. They may worry that their colleagues or employers will find out about their mental health issues, which could impact their job performance or their career.


We approach treatment holistically

With First Step Men's Therapy, we offer flexible scheduling and a wide range of therapists offering a holistic, tailored approach to treating you. While work and career stress and trauma is a key part of our work, we also look at other factors that may be creating difficulty in your life: relationships, substance abuse, shame, grief, and social supports to name a few.

Contact us today for a free 20-minute consultation. 

Check out our blog on how therapy can help First Responders: Click here

FirstResponderFirst# Support Network: Click here

Boots on the Ground Peer Support Network: Click here

bottom of page