Why are circles important?
In my work with First Responders, I have become increasingly aware of the cumulative effects of exposure to stressful events that is endured by individuals in this field. Moving from one stressful event to another, with minimal opportunity for effective debrief at the time or after the fact, has a heavy impact on the nervous system over time.
I have identified a significant need to support First Responders to both understand, manage and process the traumatic exposure that comes as part of the job. This has become a passion for me to provide this much needed support to those that support our community.
I am aware that traditionally in the First Responder communities there has been alot of stigma related to help seeking and there is a culture of stoicism. Both of these have prevented many First Responders from speaking out about the hardships of the role and they have suffered in silence as a result.
My hope is to reduce the stigma for help seeking and promote help seeking as a preventative, commendable and responsible way to strengthen your role as a First Responder. I want to dismantle the stoicism that prevents First Responders from acknowledging the impact of the work.
stressful events have an impact.
Humans are not robots.
We are feeling, sensing beings that are engaged with and impacted by our environment. Stressful events are perceived by different individuals in different ways and to different degrees each time. These events need to be consolidated and processed so they don’t have a lasting impact on our nervous system and memory system.
When we enter stressful events, our nervous system naturally sets off a stress response. This threat response sends signals to parts of our brain to support us to take action at the time.
This threat response can be mobilising and enable us to respond in a critical moment.
We rely on this activation to affect our behaviour at that time.
After stressful events however, we need to support our nervous system to de-escalate and rebalance.
When there is minimal regular support or opportunity to recover and reset after significant events or when there is another nervous system activation that follows closely from the last one, this can have a cumulative effect on the body and the brain.
This cumulative effect of trauma is not about “being weak.” This is just about how the brain and body system works.
If we don’t regularly service the vehicle, it starts to become symptomatic.
Just like a car on the road, if we aren’t servicing and supporting our brain and body well, it will start to become symptomatic too.
It has become a passion of mine to provide a safe, contained therapeutic space for First Responders to process the impact of exposure so that they can future proof themselves and work in a more sustainable way. Additionally, my hope is to support First Responders to minimise their risk of developing symptoms of trauma, PTSD and the need to take medical leave by encouraging them to process the traumatic experiences that “stay with them” over time.
What is a first responder circle?
First Responder Circles are specifically designed for trauma exposed workers in the emergency services field. Both those that are paid or voluntary as well as current or retired.
A circle provides regular or one off meetings to debrief incidents and/or undertake group trauma work using G-TEP (Group Traumatic Experience Protocol).
G-TEP is an adapted EMDR Protocol specifically designed to provide trauma processing in the group setting.
Attending a circle can move emergency workers from feeling isolated, traumatised and emotionally heightened by the cumulative experiences that they “can’t un-see” into resilient, connected, emotionally intelligent, clear-headed frontline workers who feel ready to take on their next shift.
is a first responder circle for everyone?
First Responder Circles for debriefing are absolutely for everyone. First Responder Circles used for G-TEP (Group Traumatic Experience Protocol) are for pre-screened participants only.
Think about G-TEP kind of like a group fitness program. Some participants do better with a “personal trainer” of 1:1 trauma processing while others do well in a group setting.
G-TEP is appropriate for individuals who already have some capacity to emotionally regulate themselves. Setting up a G-TEP session firstly involves each prospective participant being pre-screened to make sure they are ready for the group processing session.
If a participant isn’t ready for G-TEP, they may be referred for individual EMDR instead or first.
What happens in a first responder circle?
- Learn about how stress and trauma impact the brain and body
- Understand, manage, learn skills and practice tools to process trauma (with or without G-TEP) & manage stress
- Develop tools to integrate and consolidate stressful experiences
- Learn self-care practices to support the nervous system
- Debrief and share with others about the impact of the work
- Reduce isolation
- Encourage a culture of sharing, community and support
- Strengthen resilience
- Gain tools to improve sleep and well-being
- Future-proof themselves for a more sustainable career
what happens in a G-TEP session?
- Unlike incident debriefings, in a G-TEP session, the details of trauma events are not shared between participants.
- Pre-screened participants are guided through a
protocol which enables them to process distressing events in their own mind.
- Despite being in the same room (or same Zoom room), individuals don’t
know what each other are processing.
- Two facilitators are present. One leads the process and the other provides support to participants.
Sessions can be provided online or face to face.
Participants are provided with resources ahead of time.
Sign up for next circle dates + free resources
Clear your head, sleep easy, work well
- A welcome, one off or regular forum to debrief incidents & work experiences that have had an impact on you.
- Process trauma with evidence-based treatment, G-TEP (for eligible participants).
- Opportunity to connect with colleagues in a meaningful way.
- Deepen relationship to yourself and others.
- Strengthen resilience.
- Learn about how trauma effects the mind, the body and nervous system.
- Develop proven tools to support yourself with stress and processing trauma.
- Future-proof yourself so you can stay in the emergency services without burning out.
Does any of this sound familiar?
- You have experiences from your work that have “stayed with you” in your mind.
- You replay the incidents long after the job has been completed and you feel an emotional charge when you do.
- Sometimes you feel unsettled or anxious about going back to work and anticipate what situations you may be presented with.
- You feel unsettled when a call comes in for a work job.
- You feel shame, embarrassment or discomfort about talking about the stuff that has had an effect of you.
- You feel the stigma around acknowledging or seeking help for trauma.
- You don’t want to feel (or be perceived to be seen as) “weak ” or “too soft” but sometimes the job catches up with you a bit. Builds up over time.
- You are aware of the stoicism in the workplace that stops you or your colleagues from really talking about stuff.
- Sometimes you drive past locations where there have been incidents from work and parts of the scene comes back and you feel an emotional charge when it does.
- Sometimes you may have some extra fear or worry that may be influenced by what you have experienced in your work.
- You like to “zone out” or “numb out” in any number of ways such as with alcohol, drugs, sex, video-gaming, gambling, work, staying busy.
- You have unsettled, restless or wakeful sleep or you want to sleep more than usual.
- Sometimes you feel less joy than you used to.