How Therapy Can Benefit EMTs And Paramedics
A first responder's career may cause complicated emotions and traumas to rise under pressure. EMTs and paramedics often witness distressing scenes while facing the profound demands of their work. It takes mental fortitude to face the emotional highs and lows of emergency calls and continue to feel healthy and positive.
Because of these unique challenges, awareness of comprehensive mental health providers can be vital to a first responder's overall well-being. Learning how EMT emotional therapy can help EMTs, paramedics, and other first responders process the emotions that come with the job and address trauma can be beneficial.
What Are EMTs And Paramedics?
EMTs and paramedics are trained to provide medical treatment to those involved in a crisis, often arriving first at the scene of an accident, crime, or another emergency. The nature of their job exposes them to potentially traumatic events, which can have demonstrated effects on their mental health. The pressure they face to provide emergency services quickly and efficiently may further strain their well-being, making it crucial to consider healing strategies and transform emotions to maintain resilience.
Research, backed by evidence, shows that up to 22% of paramedics and EMTs have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), compared to the 7-12% of the general population diagnosed. Workplace trauma may be referred to as vicarious trauma because the EMS professional might witness a traumatic event without experiencing it firsthand. However, they could also experience trauma that directly impacts them, causing a significant shift in their emotional well-being.
Public safety employees may not discuss traumatic events, as they might be interested in avoiding them to feel safe. However, this approach could make it difficult for them to release their emotions healthily and lead to increased stress over time, in addition to symptoms of mental health conditions like anxiety. By utilizing mental health services, EMTs and paramedics can manage their emotions, confront the potential stress of their careers, and facilitate positive change.
Healthy Coping Techniques
For those procuring productive, healthy outlets for their emotions, a few options can connect them with guidance and support.
A first responder's specific department may have mental health services staffed by individuals familiar with the challenges inherent to an EMT or paramedic's job. Talking about trauma or other concerns with an empathetic listener could allow employees to sort through their feelings and develop tools for addressing stress and trauma responses in the future.
Access to support can also empower employees to follow through on healthy choices, such as exercise and nutrition. By taking the time to invest in their own well-being, workers could reduce the likelihood of physical pain or fatigue, which may influence how they process information or react to situations that happened in their line of work.
Some public safety departments may have specially trained staff called peer support representatives, skilled in active listening and language techniques, and chaplains on staff who can provide spiritual guidance and support. These individuals can help their colleagues navigate the emotional energy and memory of challenging experiences.
In addition to expressing themselves through counseling, EMTs and paramedics can engage in physical activity to reduce stress or other trauma-related feelings. Research grounded in science has shown that traumatic stress can be carried in the body for long periods. Exercise, whether running, yoga, biking, or other activities, can help reduce stress's physical and mental impacts and alleviate pain.
Regular meditation can also help EMTs and paramedics move past work-related trauma. It may be uncomfortable initially, but meditation has been shown to reduce the intensity and frequency of flashbacks caused by exposure to work-related trauma. However, you may benefit from talking to a meditation coach or therapist before practicing.
Unhealthy Coping Methods
Some EMTs and paramedics use substances to cope with the emotional distress from their job. Repeated use of this coping mechanism may lead to medical issues and worsening mental health concerns. Some people living with trauma might turn to alternative behaviors like gambling.
At times, first responders may try to avoid addressing their concerns in the hopes that they will eventually pass. Repressing your feelings, however, can negatively impact your emotional health in the long run.
If you're struggling with substance use, consider reaching out to the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357.
The Benefits Of Therapy
EMTs and paramedics living with mental health challenges may find that therapy is a valuable source of support and advice. A therapist can help the individual better understand and address the sources of their concerns, deliver the right message, and teach them coping mechanisms that can help them during stressful times.
Research shows that specific therapy modalities, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can reduce symptoms of PTSD. CBT often works by helping the individual identify negative thought patterns that may lead to maladaptive behaviors. A therapist may help the individual recognize and replace thoughts that may contribute to unwanted responses.
If a first responder is experiencing suicidal thoughts, seeking emergency treatment is crucial. Suicide rates among first responders are high. Research shows that EMS professionals are 1.39 times more likely to die by suicide than the general population. This statistic further highlights the need for early mental health care interventions that may help prevent individuals from feeling like they do not have options.
If you are experiencing thoughts or urges of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text 988 to talk to someone over SMS. They are available 24/7 to offer support.
While many emergency services departments may offer free services like grief or trauma counseling to first responders, they might not be long-term solutions. While many emergency services departments may offer free services like grief or trauma counseling to first responders, they might not be long-term solutions. Many first responders have transformed the world around them for the better, but too often they come home from work feeling wrong by a system that fails to recognize the immense toll their job takes on them.
While no single situation may work for everyone, having regular contact with an experienced professional may be a healthy way of managing the symptoms of stress, trauma, or other mental health challenges. If your schedule doesn't open up much room for in-person sessions, you can consider online therapy for flexible treatment. Online therapy may be a great way of managing the following conditions: depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, and more.
Recent research points to online therapy as an effective method of providing mental healthcare to those who may have experienced trauma in their job. For example, a study of 96 participants living with PTSD found that online cognitive-behavioral therapy could reduce distress and lead to a positive therapeutic alliance. Researchers noted that the positive results of treatment were sustained after three months and that comorbid anxiety and depression were also reduced after five weeks.
An online therapy platform like BetterHelp can provide valuable resources and support as you work through emotions related to your career or other aspects of your life. With online therapy, you may not have to set aside time to travel to an office. Because many platforms have thousands of therapists with various specialties and areas of expertise, your chance of matching with someone specializing in your specific concerns may be higher.
Do ambulances have EMTs or paramedics?
Professional medical technicians always manage emergency medical services (or EMS), although EMTs and paramedics are not the same thing. Both experts have the knowledge, skills, and equipment to provide health treatment and life support during critical incidents. However, the difference is in how much EMS education each professional has had. That, in turn, determines what they’re allowed to do for patients in the ambulance. Therefore, a comprehensive ambulance service will offer both or at least be managed by a healthcare facility with better trained staff on deck.
How much more do paramedics make than EMTs?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, health professionals with an EMS education can expect to receive a competitive salary, albeit not always commiserate with the amount of workplace stress they must endure. On average, EMTs earn around $38,800 per year. Care providers with EMS mental health training can make even more. Meanwhile, paramedics take home an average salary of about $65,000 each year because of their experience with all facets of health care. As such, people in these careers find more reward in helping people than getting paid.
NOTE: States with the highest-paid disaster response teams are Delaware, Nevada, Maryland, Washington, and Alaska.
Are counselors considered first responders?
Some professional counselors are considered first responders because they can help with mental, emotional, or behavioral emergencies instead of physical ones. They offer life support in a different way, many times to the benefit of the rest of the medical team as well as the patient.
Traumatized people with a mental illness may sometimes experience suicidal thoughts, so therapists are often called in for suicide prevention. They can also tell the difference between acute stress and serious psychological trauma. That, in turn, helps everyone determine the most effective treatment plan.
First responders with clinical mental health counseling experience can provide a list of mental illnesses on the scene, thereby making it easier for EMT and paramedics to determine the cause of each emergency. EMS mental health calls account for a large percentage of emergency room visits, so mental health counselors work tohelp prevent the need for hospital admission through on-site services and treatment plans.
Is an advanced EMT the same as a paramedic?
There are many differences between an advanced EMT and a paramedic. Both of these trained medical technicians can transport patients, offer on-site health treatment, and provide emergency services. However, the main contrast is in the amount of education required for each position. In general, paramedics require a little more training than advanced EMTs.
The National EMS Scope of Practice models that describe these careers find the following EMS licensure distinctions to be more definitive:
- Level One– Emergency Medical Responder (EMR)
- Level Two– Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
- Level Three– Advanced Emergency Medical Technician (AEMT)
- Level Four– Paramedic
Each role represents a different level of patient care that can be provided. For example, an advanced EMT may be able to offer pediatric care and general health treatment but might not be allowed to help with mental illness or suicide prevention.
What can paramedics do that EMTs cannot?
Paramedics offer health EMS that most EMTs, advanced or otherwise, cannot. Both professionals are allowed to provide life support and health treatment to patients and their families during critical incidents. However, each expert has a specific job to do and some tasks cannot overlap.
EMTs can administer CPR on the scene. They’re allowed to give emergency glucose and oxygen as well as provide basic first-aid. Meanwhile, paramedics perform the more complex procedures. They’re responsible for administering controlled substances, starting Ivs, and installing pacemakers in route to a better equipped healthcare facility.
Neither one is allowed to provide health treatment for psychological trauma without the help of a licensed on-site counselor. They both can, however, provide resources for suicide prevention and alert hospitals or law enforcement of a code green to prevent further accidents or injuries.
How much does an advanced EMT make?
The salary for an advanced EMT varies depending on several factors, including location, training, and hours worked. Still, the average professional makes about $44,800 a year before taxes, bonuses, or holiday pay. Training for additional health treatment can also affect an AEMT’s earnings. For example, if they gain experience with emotional wellness or stress management, they may be eligible for higher pay.
Why is EMT pay so low?
EMTs don’t make a fortune at work because of the law of supply and demand. Especially in urban areas, emergency medical technicians are plentiful due to the minimal certification requirements and maximized employee exposure. Therefore, higher-paid positions are often found in smaller cities or remote towns with limited contact to physical or mental health EMS. However, those locations are often staffed by volunteers, so the pay rate is usually commiserated with local availability.
What is the hourly pay for an EMT?
The average hourly pay for a certified EMT is only about $13.39, according to PayScale. However, other sources place the average at between $16 and $20 per hour. Either way, hourly wages can vary widely based on many different factors. For example, certification, experience, location, and education play key roles in what an EMT earns. Additional training makes for more enhanced health treatment abilities, which in turn creates more lucrative opportunities in the health services sector.
NOTE: Holiday pay, overtime, and employee bonuses may also affect your hourly average.
What can advanced Emts do?
An advanced EMT, or AEMT, is a health EMS professional with special training to perform specific tasks during various emergency situations. Their job description is simple, but their responsibilities are not. Here’s what they generally do alongside their health services team:
- Provide basic life support
- Perform CPR
- Give first-aid
- Administer glucose
- Offer supplemental oxygen
- Install laryngeal airway devices
- Use CPAP machines
- Employ a defibrillator
- Assess patient conditions
When a health treatment requires an additional medical consultation, advanced EMTs will also perform interventions until that help arrives. They’re trained to use all the equipment on an ambulance and can provide critical information to health care staff as well as the board of directors in the event of a dispute.
What is the difference between an EMR and an EMT?
EMR stands for Emergency Medical Responder. EMT stands for Emergency Medical Technician. Both professionals respond to emergent situations with a basic understanding of rapid health care. However, that’s where the similarities stop. A EMR’s main gig is to provide stress management for other responders and for people on the scene.
An EMR and EMT may work side-by-side to offer on-site health treatment to pre-hospital patients during critical junctures. However, they do not offer the same level of health care because each position plays a unique role inside the ambulance or ER. Moreover, an EMT certification requires more education, so they’re allowed to do things that an EMR cannot.
Emergency Medical Responders are not responsible for transporting patients to hospitals or administering drugs. Instead, they’re tasked with providing instant aid and intervention while patients wait for EMTs, AEMTs, and paramedics to arrive. In some cases, EMRs may act as liaisons or confidants to help with mental illness or boost emotional wellness during a crisis.
What can advanced Emts do?
An AEMT, or advanced EMT, can provide an immediate health treatment in most emergency situations. While they cannot do everything that a doctor or paramedic can, they’re still trained to treat a wide variety of health problems as they occur. Meanwhile, their job description is usually set by the hospital board of directors that hires them.
In general, however, AEMTs are allowed to the do the following things in or out of the ambulance:
- Give basic life support
- Offer glucose and/or oxygen supplementation
- Administer CPAP treatments
- Perform CPR and fundamental first-aid
- Unblock airways with invasive procedures
Advanced EMTs can also use a defibrillator if the patient is unresponsive or without a pulse. Their primary responsibility is to stabilize the patient until more help can arrive, or to safely transport that patient to a nearby hospital.
NOTE: Only AEMTs with additional training can/should address mental health problems on an emergency call.
What is the difference between an EMR and an EMT?
An EMR is responsible for responding to and alleviating stress in a medical emergency. They can offer first-aid, CPR, and comfort to ailing patients as they wait for more help to arrive. The scope of health treatment provided by an Emergency Medical Responder is therefore minimal yet extremely crucial.
Alternatively, an EMT requires more education and thus has more civic responsibility in critical situations. Emergency Medical Technicians can administer more complex life-saving treatments such as forced oxygen, laryngeal airway devices, CPAP machines, and even cardiovascular defibrillators. Neither are mental health professionals or counselors, yet they can both offer respite to traumatized patients on route to the hospital.
How many hours is advanced EMT?
The magic number of hours for an advanced EMT certification is 113. However, you must also have a basic EMT certification to qualify, and certain employers may require additional training based on demographics or social criteria. Typical AEMT training courses teach the proper procedure for administering a health treatment to critical care patients. Therefore, students learn hands-on in a guided step-by-step course that can take anywhere from a few months to several years.
NOTE: EMTs must enroll in a program that meets or exceeds the National Emergency Medical Services Education Standards and then successfully pass their state-approved Emergency Medical Technician course.
What medications can EMTs give?
EMTs can offer a wide range of different health treatment options, including certain life-saving medications. However, the drugs allowed must first be authorized by a duly engaged board of directors as part of an emergency treatment plan. Plus, all medicines must also be administered according to the published protocols or via a direct override from a licensed physician. Certain protocols, such as those for pediatric care, may require additional information or prolonged response times from doctors.
In general, however, most Emergency Medical Technicians are authorized to administer the following medications after contacting the medical command center first:
- Epinephrine (EpiPen®)
- Activated charcoal
- Non-medicated IV solutions
There is only one exception to the “contact the command center first” rule: If nobody at the command center can be reached and inaction increases the patient’s morbidity risk, an EMT can act within protocol guidelines as trained. For more information on the local specifics, contact the reigning board of directors in charge of published protocols.
Additional questions people have about the topic, include:
What is the purpose of mental health counseling?
Clinical mental health counselors work with their clients or patients to develop strategies and approaches to improve mental illness and address mental health issues, behavioral and emotional problems, professional issues, and any other type of issue that the person may be struggling with.
Certified counselors must obtain specific education to be able to provide psychological services, such as therapy and mental health assessments. First, they should complete a bachelor’s degree in a mental health field, such as psychology,mental health counseling theory, health counseling, human development, family counseling, sociology, etc. Then, they must pursue a master’s degree from a mental health counseling program, which further requires taking part in supervised fieldwork, such as providing individual or group counseling in mental health settings, such as mental health clinics, substance abuse rehabilitation centers, social service agencies, professional development agencies, and non-public programs.
Duties may include: monitor clients, crisis intervention, treatment planning, substance abuse counseling, administering educational programs, and more. Finally, many clinical mental health counselors choose to become certified by the American Counseling Association.
What's the difference between a mental health counselor and a therapist?
A therapist is any person who is licensed and certified in the use of therapeutic techniques to assess and address mental health and emotional issues in diverse populations.Many mental health professionals use the title ‘therapist’ to identify themselves, although their educational background and real life experience can vary widely. For example, a therapist can be a:
- Licensed mental health counselor
- Social workers
- Mental health or substance abuse adviser
- Certified healers providing mental health counseling and mental health services
- Licensed professional counselor providing group sessions or school counseling
What types of mental health problems does a counselor treat?
Providers of mental health counseling can assess and treat a number of mental health challenges and issues that affect a person’s overall well being, including:
- Major depressive disorder
- Anxiety disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Behavioral disorders (a behavioral disorder involves a pattern of disruptive behaviors that cause problem in a person’s life)
- Aggressive behavior
- Marriage and family problems
- Substance abuse
How do I become a mental health counselor without a degree?
A lot of people have the desire and vocation to help others but cannot or don’t want to invest time and money pursuing a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Unfortunately, the therapeutic support that you can provide to other people without a professional degree is limited, so if you want to offer counseling services it’s important to familiarize yourself with the types of help you can give to people dealing with mental health challenges without obtaining a college degree.
If you decide to pursue a mental health counseling career without college education, you will probably have to complete one or more certifications. A few positions that allow you to assist clients without holding a degree (but that may require certifications include:
- Life skills counselor
- Human development counselor
- Personal development / life skills counselor
- Community outreach worker
- Substance abuse coach or sponsor
- Peer support counselor
- Youth worker
- Career counselor
What are the 4 types of mental illness?
There are hundreds of mental disorders and human development conditions that affect a person’s overall wellness recognized as mental illnesses, and many of them can be treated with mental health counseling by an effective mental health counselor. Some of the most prevalent types include:
- Anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobias, panic disorder, and others.
- Mood disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder, etc.
- Personality disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive, borderline personality disorder, and histrionic personality disorder.
- Eating disorders, including anorexia, binge eating disorder, and bulimia, just to name a few.
- Psychotic disorders, like schizophrenia.
- Impulse control disorders, such as substance use disorder, gambling addiction, and kleptomania (compulsive stealing).
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