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Emotional Health for Emergency Responders During COVID-19 Pandemic

As our emergency responders respond to COVID-19, emotional health has never been more important.

By Jaime Brower - March 20, 2020

Emotional Health for Emergency Responders During COVID-19 Pandemic

I would like to personally thank all of our emergency responders for their courage and bravery during this pandemic. You service does not go unnoticed and we at Brower Psychological deeply appreciate you.
~ Dr. Brower

Emotional Health for Emergency Responders During Covid-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting all of us and though we share some common experiences of this unprecedented event, our emotional responses can be unique to each person.  Just as agencies may differ in policy and procedural responses to the pandemic, each emergency responder (and related staff members) will have their own emotional and psychological responses. Emergency responders have unique challenges during this time as they are expected to face this challenge head-on. Fear of exposure, providing medical care to those who are ill, and concern regarding spread to their families, especially in homes where elderly or those with compromised immune systems reside, can feel overwhelming and can exhaust our coping skills. Stress can shrink our window of tolerance and we may find ourselves feeling anxious, angry, out of control, like we just want to fight or flee. Alternatively, we may feel numb or zoned out, like we want to shut down. Secondary traumatic stress can include physical and emotional fatigue, sleep disturbance, withdrawal, increase in irritability/agitation, unexplained body aches/pain, and increased use of alcohol and tobacco. Because we all will respond differently during stressful situations, it is important that we pay close attention to any deviations from our baseline behaviors and ask for support when we need it.

However, it is especially important during this time to remember that emergency services responders are incredibly resilient, have great passion for service and have likely survived many difficult and challenging times throughout their careers. Many emergency responders have already lived a “disaster-ready” lifestyle, training both physically and mentally to ensure that they will be a valuable team member during this time, while decreasing personal risk for harm. Maintaining perspective during this pandemic is critical, as is supporting each other and our families. There will be an end to this, and we will survive it.

Social Distancing and Quarantine
Social distancing and quarantine can be stressful and isolating. Many will feel anxiety, worry, resentment or anger toward others, uncertainty, boredom, and some depressive symptoms.
If quarantined, there are ways to support yourself. Understand the risk of harm to yourself and others around you through education. The public perception of risk during an outbreak is often inaccurate. Take steps to get the facts from credible sources. Be your own advocate. If quarantined at home be sure that you have what you need to feel safe, secure and comfortable. Leverage technological advances to stay connected with others (e.g. Zoom, Skype, text messaging, limited social media, and gaming). It might also be a great time to read that book you’ve been wanting to read or complete that project you’ve been meaning to get to. Use practical ways to cope and relax. Take deep breaths, meditate, pray, or engage in activities you enjoy.

Helpful Resources
Knowing the facts:
Mental Health:
  • Reach out to your EAP or specialty provider
  • Continue mental health counseling via Telehealth (e.g. phone or Zoom appointments)
  • Peer Support
  • Chaplaincy
Crisis Counseling:
Safe Call Now: (206) 459-3020 or 1-877-230-6060
Fire/EMS Helpline: 1-888-731-FIRE (3473)
Copline: 1-800-267-5463
Emergency Responder Crisis Text Line – text “BADGE” TO 741741

Practice Stress Management
  • Know your personal signs of stress
  • Take time for yourself
  • Utilize stress coping skills including regular exercise and engaging in activities that help us unplug
  • Know/learn about the facts about COVID-19, don’t catastrophize
  • Control what you can, let go of the rest
  • Commit conscious acts of kindness
Prepare and Plan with Loved Ones
  • Create a safety plan
  • Communicate
  • Set limits on all media
  • While at home, be present and use this time to connect with loved ones and interact
  • Answer questions and share facts with your family about COVID-19
  • Try to keep regular routines
  • Be a role model for your children - take breaks, get plenty of rest, exercise, and eat well


The Start of a New Year at Brower Psychological - 2019

By Jaime Brower - January 21, 2019

The Start of a New Year at Brower Psychological - 2019
As we're gearing up for another year, I can't help but think of 2018. While I've worked with first responders for the last 17/18 years, it was the first year that I had the privilege to do so under my own business, Brower Psychological. For the first time, I had the ability to set up my practice, as I wanted it. It was a bit terrifying and a lot exciting. My vision was to truly change and update the psychological services being provided to our first responders. The concepts of quality therapeutic services (including state of the art trauma treatment), revolutionizing preemployment evaluations, ensuring the wellness of our first responders and their families, quality assurance, and confidentiality, guided us through our first year. I also wanted to make sure that we took care of our retirees and our responder families. We truly care about the work that we do and find no greater good than to help the helpers.

The team of clinicians that I have put together are extroardinary and I am incredibly thankful for all of their hard work this year. Each clinician has expertise in working with first responders and trauma, and has brought their own style and specialty. Different people, personalities and presenting issues require various clinicians for clients to choose from. Clients can always try out one clinician and change, if they find that the goodness of fit isn't quite right. We want clients to find that perfect fit and feel comfortable getting the care that they need.   

We have had the privilege to work with over fifty agencies in the Denver Metro Area and beyond, expanding weekly. As we grow, we've expanded the services provided, but have been able to do so at a rate and pace that we've been able to keep up with. We have ensured that therapeutic services are readily available (scheduling within the week), as are our evaluation reports and emergency response (responded to immediately, 24/7). My Dad, who for many years owned his own business, reminded me to only take on that which we could handle, as the fastest way to lose business would be to take on too much, too soon.

In 2019, we plan on bringing a full schedule of trainings to our training centers, both live and online. We will have courses on First Respnder Health & Nutrition, Retirement, Family Survival, the So You Wanna Be a Cop/Firefighter Courses, and many others. We are  going to provide courses on leadership and supervision, with two tracks for sworn and non-sworn employees. We will also be providing courses on critical incident stress management, advanced peer support and the basics of EMDR (what it is and how it works). Moreover, in keeping with Brower trainings, we will have some of the most dynamic and intersting speakers to present these topics, ensuring that participants won't fall asleep and won't be bored by the material. Please keep your eye on our "Events" and the online training center. 

I am thankful to those of you who have utilized our services and promise that we will be strivig to ensure your continued business for years to come. My staff is as passionate as I am about the work we're doing and believe that we are blessed to be working with you. Thank you for allowing our family to work with yours. 

Here's to 2019!
Jaime Brower


Warriors Grieve Too

By Jaime Brower - May 2, 2018

Warriors Grieve Too
“We choose to live a life of service.”  This is a heavy statement.  So many people do not know what their life’s purpose is, and yet, you, First Responders, know your purpose and it means devoting and many times giving your lives to serving and protecting.  This is a most noble and generous calling.

Although this devotion comes with the reward of “doing good unto others” and a living wage, it also comes at great costs and conflicts – missed birthdays, holidays and family events, long hours, sometimes deplorable conditions and daily risks of injury and death faced on the job. This is the norm, not the exception.

Furthermore, when a member of the First Responder community does lose his or her life, the grief journey is not like any other.  It is unique, because, like your military counterparts, people actually die ON the job.  First Responders dying in work-related incidents happen every day and sometimes in droves, and yet nothing stops because someone died.  Colleagues impacted by the event still have to carry out the mission, whether it’s to contain a fire, search and rescue, apprehend a predator or shooter, subdue a conflict or save others’ lives,.  In addition to your “regular” job, with a team member’s death you are often responsible for carrying out funeral protocols and family notifications. You don’t get to go home and start the grieving process, and there is no time or room for it on the job.  On top of that, the tragic event and the following funeral(s) are merely moments in time.  The service is beautiful and a time to remember a team member, but afterward, most attendees have to zip back to work and carry out their expected duties.  Consequently, First Responders have no time to recover from trauma or process the grief.

So, what is one supposed to do?

The long answer is …well, long, complex and different for everyone.  However, the short answer is, BE PATIENT.  Be patient with yourself if you are a First Responder.  Be patient with your First Responder if you are a spouse, family member or friend.  The grief journey is not a beautiful walk.  For First Responders, it is made up of short trips to hell and back when time permits.  Allow yourself or your First Responder these trips.  Allow the anger and the unanswerable why questions.  Why him or her?  Why not me?  Why now?  Be patient and allow the searching for answers. It is in this searching that the work of grief takes place, that healing takes place.  Patience is the one tool we all have.  It is a gift we all should give and receive.

“The strongest of all warriors is patience and time”  -- Leo Tolstoy

Stay safe.  -jb

A Diamond In The Making

By Jaime Brower - April 2, 2018

A Diamond In The Making
A Diamond In The Making

First Responders are under great amounts of stress all of the time.  Stress on the job, stress from the public, the news media, the policy makers … add in family commitments and relationships, and the perfect mental storm is potentially underway.  Yet, for the most part you manage to keep it all under control and do your job … every day or night.  HOW that is done is different for all First Responders.  When I researched “reducing stress” and how to stay even partially Zen, I found a lot of drivel even from seasoned professionals who serve First Responders.  Come on, although I like to light candles (yes, this is a destressing practice listed by many), burning a candle is NOT going to do the trick (although watching a bon-fire of 3000 candles would be cool!)  And, where most of us live, listening to running water (another practice listed by professionals) means that our home is flooding.  No … I don’t think I need to continue with this list.

Instead, I’ve compiled some good practices and habits that First Responders actually do naturally and by choice to help them keep it together.  Keep them in mind, try one or more, or continue doing what works for you.  Just don’t shrug your shoulders and do nothing to help yourself. 
  1. SLEEP – Duh!  Easier said than done, though, right?  After all, part of being a First Responder is being alert!  It’s hard to turn off the mind chatter and imagination.  But try!  Take melatonin, drink chamomile tea, reduce your caffeine intake, and dare I say … meditate.  Even 10 minutes of meditation can quiet the mind and body.  Word on the street is that many of you already practice meditation, and Buddha is smiling.
  2. VITAMIN D – Yup, sunshine in a supplement.  Most of us don’t get enough vitamin D naturally, so it is a very good practice to take a supplement.  It boosts our acuity, mood, and energy levels during the day. Vitamin D-o It!
  3. EXERCISE, schmexercise – most First Responders work out on a regular basis, so I don’t need to say much.  However, going outside in this gorgeous state, playing with your kids or dogs or even “rage” cleaning is physical and melts tension.  Get out of your head by getting out!
  4. LAUGH!  I love to laugh, and frankly I’ve never heard of someone who doesn’t.  It’s a good thing you can never get too much of and relieves stress, pain, situational depression and strengthens the core.  And, I’ve seen many of you in my trainings.   I know the class clowns.  Keep it up!
  5. TALK – is NOT cheap.  I mean this in the best way, not as a psychologist with a practice to run.  Don’t minimize what a good chat session can do for the psyche.  Whether you are shootin’ the breeze or seeking out an objective ear to vent to, find your peeps and talk.  (Of course, I am always here and ready to help, too.)
  6. VALIDATE your experience.  I had this annoying acquaintance who always said, “You validate my experience” with a valley girl voice.  She is still annoying, but the point is, your experiences and feelings are valid.   Don’t sell yourself short.  Say it!   “I validate my experience.”
  7. GRATITUDE – being grateful is a great way to get outside of your head.  Giving voice to all that you have and are, shrinks stress to bite-size pieces that are more chewable.  Just remember to spit.
  8. STUDY – I know … you just implemented #7, being grateful that part of your life is over.  I don’t mean study your current craft at which you are already a professional and stressed over.  Study something else way, way, way outside of your work.  Would it be better if I said, “Get a hobby!”?
  9. VOLUNTEER – that’s right.  I’m here to tell you that being selfless is actually an act of selfishness.  We all feel great when we help get that kitten out of a tree (Firefighters), help an old lady cross the street (Police) or give the choking guy the Heimlich maneuver (EMS).  Making someone else’s day will make yours.  It is good for the heart, soul and the world.
  10. REDUCE SCREEN TIME – somewhat ironic here, since you are staring at a screen.  So, I’ll help you right now by ending this entry. 
Stay safe.  -jb


Resolute About Resolution

Conflict Resolution Series

By Jaime Brower - March 26, 2018

Resolute About Resolution
Resolute About Resolution

Conflict Resolution is a huge topic.  Thousands of books, articles, classes and lectures are devoted to the subject, with about as many ideas and strategies to use.  Consequently, one blog post cannot encompass all the material, and therefore, over the next year, I will visit different pieces of the conflict resolution puzzle that can be important to you in your high pressure jobs and relationships. 

Let’s get started with a few basics.  First we’ll generally define “conflict,” which I’m sure you all are familiar with, and then I will share a short guideline to help you manage during times of interpersonal and situational conflict.

What is Conflict?
Many people define conflict as a disagreement, but conflict moves beyond that definition.  Conflict occurs in a situation where one or both parties disagree AND perceive a threat, real or not.  Therefore, conflicts trigger strong emotions based on our perception of the situation, not based on the facts of the situation.  And, our perceptions are built from past experiences, values, upbringing and core beliefs. 

Part of the ability to manage conflict is based on your ability to manage your emotions, which in turn is based on how comfortable you are with your emotions.  This is “emotional awareness,” a core pillar in the conflict resolution strategy (and one that deserves its own blog post later.)  When you are aware of how you feel and can remain comfortable with your passing emotions you don’t simply react.  You can attend to the situation in a constructive way (even during a real or perceived attack).  Emotional awareness allows you to manage your own feelings appropriately, communicate clearly, stay focused on resolution, listen, and understand the other person’s views and perceptions. 

Emotional awareness coupled with the following guideline can further your skills in conflict resolution.  We’ve all heard this list at one time or another, but it is good to reaffirm each point.
  • Make resolution the priority:  Rather than having a “must-be the winner” attitude, make “must resolve the issue” your mantra.  Being in a relationship or solving an issue is not just about being right or winning the argument.  Maintaining and strengthening the relationship is the point. Be respectful of the other person’s viewpoint.
  • Listen:  Listen for what is said and listen to what is felt.  Part of emotional awareness is knowing, understanding and honoring the emotions of the other person.  When you are in control of your emotions, you free up space in your heart and mind to truly listen, so that you can be informed, understand and respond respectfully.
  • Stick to the task at hand:  solving the current conflict relies on your ability to focus on the here-and-now.  Bringing up past conflicts or holding a grudge will cause your push toward current resolution to backslide.
  • Pick your battles:  Certainly this is pertinent to all types of relationships, even dealing with issues such as road rage or common discourtesies.  Ask yourself if this issue is worthy of your time, emotion and energy. 
  • Give forgiveness:  Better yet (and particularly important with your children and teens), forgive easily and forget readily.  Central to conflict resolution is forgiveness.  All resolution relies upon denying your urge to continually punish.
  • Be okay with “agreeing to disagree”:  Of course coming to an agreement is always optimal, but sometimes people just don’t see eye-to-eye.  It’s not the disagreement that necessarily creates the conflict; it’s the sense of threat and emotion wrapped around the disagreement.  If you can let go of the perception of attack, the disagreement may feel smaller.  It may not be worth the energy to continue arguing if it’s going nowhere.  You can disengage, agree to disagree and move on.
Stay safe. -jb

Hello First Responder World

Honored to meet you

By Jaime Brower - March 22, 2018

Hello First Responder World
Hello First Responder World!

Many of you I already have the pleasure of knowing, and many of you I will get to know in the future through training, family nights or private consulting.  I want to take the space of my first blog post to thank you for your service and thank you for trusting us. 

While your calling is to serve others, our calling is to serve you.  My position is unique in the way that I get to see your work and sometimes your life through your eyes but listen objectively.   And believe me, my colleagues and I do not take this lightly.   Instead we hold this position conscientiously and faithfully out of the greatest respect for you.  Because we are dedicated to your support and well-being professionally and personally, we want to and will be here to help you reach your highest potential through training, during times of angst or trouble, be an objective listener and guide to you and your families both professionally and personally and provide the support that you need to grow when you need it.  All First Responders deserve their own First Responder, and we are honored to accept that position when you need us.

Stay safe and know we’ve got your back! -jb

Upcoming Supervisory Strategies Course

Go To Our Events Page and Register Today!

By Jaime Brower - February 12, 2018

Upcoming Supervisory Strategies Course
Supervisory Strategies Course
March 30th, 1-5 pm
8354 Northfield Blvd., 2nd Floor Training Room, Denver, CO  80238

Providing new and experienced Supervisors with tools and skills necessary for good management 

  • Communication
  • Interpersonal Relationships
  • Creating Respect
  • Managerial Transition
  • Team Building
  • Managing Problematic Employees
  • Morale
  • Self-Care
  • Change Management