First Responders

You got into this work for a reason, to help and protect people. Maybe you felt like it was your purpose in life. 

People look to you for answers, you are a "fixer." You're held to a higher standard, expected to do better, be better. Part of that makes you proud of your career, but sometimes it is exhausting. 

Other people can have an "off day" at work. You can't. If you aren't all there, the best-case scenario might mean a complaint about your conduct but if you forget or don't notice something important, someone could get hurt.

There is a lot of talk about mental health, but maybe you don't feel like the support is actually there. Is it really okay to show vulnerability? Who can you trust when you aren't okay?

It is hard to reach out for help, so instead, we tell ourselves stories. We are "fine." We aren't affected. Other people just aren't as strong as us. We often use humour to get through some of the horrific stuff we deal with, and it works for a while until it doesn't. 

It doesn't matter what kind of helping professional you are. Whether you are a police officer, a firefighter, paramedic, in the military or one of the many others who work every day to help people and keep your community safe, chances are you can relate. 


Talking to a stranger about personal stuff can be uncomfortable, but you want a life, you are not giving up. You want to get better. Whether you are facing burnout or you have PTSD, there is hope. You can recover. You found this website, you've made it this far. 

Psychotherapy for First Responders in Ontario

Fairly recent changes to legislation in Ontario now mean that a diagnosis of PTSD in first responders is assumed to be work-related. This applies to police officers, firefighters, paramedics, certain workers in correctional institutions and secure youth justice facilities, dispatchers of police, firefighter and ambulance services, and emergency response teams.

Common Symptoms of Operational Stress Injuries/PTSD Include:

  • Depression

  • Nightmares and Night Terrors

  • Feeling Numb or Disconnected

  • Quick to Anger

  • Difficulty Sleeping or anxiety about going to sleep 

Here is what I ask of you if we work together:

  • Try to have an open mind.

  • Ask questions when you have them.

  • Try to be honest. There isn't much you could tell me that I haven't heard and it's not my job to judge you.

  • Tell me if I do something or say something that rubs you the wrong way. Repair in relationships is an important part of the therapeutic process.  


This is what I can offer as your therapist:

  • A safe space (currently online).  

  • Compassion, empathy, and life experience. These can't be taught and don't come from the number of credentials next to my name. 

  • To make sure you feel like you are a participant in your own treatment. Your opinion matters, this is your life. I offer my clinical judgment and suggestions but if you feel like something is not working for you, we have a conversation about it. I don't pull rank and ignore your experience.


Counselling for First Responders in Etobicoke, ON

Who are First Responders

In Ontario, first responders are front-line workers who respond to 9-1-1 and other emergency calls. They include police, fire, ambulance, and other emergency workers. For the purposes of therapy, you don't need to prove anything. It doesn't matter to me if you run a whole department, if you are new on the job, have been doing it for 20 years or are a volunteer,  If you need help, I am here.

WSIB has a specific list of what constitutes a fist responder for their purposes. For that list click here. 


For a WSIB claim, a diagnosis is necessary, please contact me if you have not already started this process and I can discuss the process of connecting you with a psychologist for an assessment and what therapy would look like after the assessment is completed. 


Operational Stress Injury

An OSI is any persistent psychological difficulty resulting from operational duties such as law enforcement, combat, or any other service-related duties. OSIs include diagnosed mental health conditions such as substance use disorders, anxiety disorders,  depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as other conditions that may interfere with daily functioning.

PTSD Symptoms

If you do not have a diagnosis of PTSD but would like to know more about the symptoms, click here to read more about the DSM V criteria for a PTSD diagnosis. Please note that I do not make clinical diagnoses.

What To Expect in Therapy

Your first session will involve an initial assessment of your well being as well as an intake of your personal history and background. Subsequent therapy sessions are 50 minutes in length and are unique to each individual's treatment plan.


This is an important consideration, as each person's experience in therapy will be different and may depend on factors like:

  • Level of overall wellness 

  • Emotional state (stability, risk-taking or other behaviours)

  • Life circumstances- support system and romantic relationship status, if there are dependent children, employment status, and the type of profession are all factors that can be considered protective or stressors. 

  • Prior experience in therapy is also a factor. No one wants to waste their time repeating something that they found unhelpful the first go-around, which is why it is important to tailor treatment to individual needs.


If you still have questions, click the button below and book a free 15 -minute consultation. You can also book your first session through this link. 

For the health and safety of clients and staff, the office has a fragrance-free policy. Please refrain from wearing scented products when attending your appointments. Service dogs are welcome.

Kennedy McLean Counselling & Psychotherapy Services Online Counselling and Telephone Psychological Therapy and Psychotherapy throughout Ontario, Canada including  Etobicoke Psychotherapy and Toronto, North York, Vaughan, Thornhill, Mississauga, Brampton, Guelph, Hamilton, Burlington, and Oakville. Kennedy McLean © 2020

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