Treating First Responders

Treating First Responders

An interview with Yael Shuman, LMFT, on the unique challenges that First Responders face and treatment considerations. Curt and Katie talk with Yael about what therapists get wrong working with first responders, especially when therapists are unable to keep their stuff together when these clients disclose their traumatic experiences. We look at resources, resilience, and preparing for trauma (rather than waiting for it to occur).

It’s time to reimagine therapy and what it means to be a therapist. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy talk about how to approach the role of therapist in the modern age.

Interview with Yael Shuman, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, EMDR and EA-EMDR trained

Yael Shuman, is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with more than 25 years’ experience working with individuals, couples, and organizations. Yael is passionate about helping people to live a fulfilling life. Trauma interrupts life by creating a stuck place that is uncomfortable and distressing. Without the right knowledge and skills, you cannot move beyond the distress.  With skills development in emotional stability and resiliency, people can reduce the impact of a traumatic situation and have improved coping skills to help them move forward and process the trauma from distress to fulfillment.

She maintains a private practice in Denver, Colorado. She has experience in PTSD/ trauma, and specializes with Military and Veteran and First Responders issues, and how to express the experiences through communication. Her practice includes providing EMDR for trauma treatment, supervises interns, and working with life issues including developing healthy relationships, stress management, anxiety, depression (including PPD) and divorce recovery.  It is well researched that people living with trauma are likely to experience more of these life issues and, if they are left unaddressed, then further disruption in life is likely to occur.  Yael has years of experience and believes it is incredibly important to assist clients with emotional stability, for them to feel safe and secure, before processing their trauma.

Prior to her work as a Marriage & Family Therapist, Mrs. Shuman spent 5 years working with Los Angeles County Child Protective Services (Family Preservation Unit) and foster care.  She holds a Master’s Degree in Marriage & Family Therapy from California Family Study Center and a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from California State University Northridge.  She is trained in EMDR and Equine-assisted EMDR. Additionally, she is a member of the American Association for Marriage & Family Therapists, EMDRIA, and an AAMFT Approved Supervisor.

In this episode we talk about:

  • Unique challenges of working with First Responders and the unique culture
  • Training that first responders typically get (and don’t get)
  • The lack of training on trauma responses and developing resilience
  • The culture of silence related to first responders – they don’t report distress or trauma responses – you can’t take it, you’re broken
  • The risk of first responders who die by suicide
  • The impacts of lack of therapist training and experience on individual clients
  • The challenge of holding space for traumatic experiences of first responders
  • The disturbing events that first responders regularly experience
  • A perspective on how to interact with trauma with our clients
  • The importance of specific training on working with first responders
  • Always assess for trauma, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse very specifically
  • The difficulty of turning off hypervigilance, but lack of communication from work off the clock
  • The tendency to protect, even off the clock in interpersonal interactions
  • The first responder client tendency to take care of their therapist
  • What therapists typically get wrong in working with first responders
  • The protective factors of resiliency, neuroplasticity
  • Resourcing and mindfulness, skills building (phase 2 EMDR)
  • Attunement and compartmentalization that can be used during an on-going situation (container, dissociation, parts work)
  • The importance of stabilization and skills to cope in the moment
  • Pre-treating expected trauma
  • Prevention training

Our Generous Sponsor: Therapy Reimagined

So…you’re wondering how to make it through this. Worried about finances, what’s next, how to keep doing your best therapy, continued adjusting to telehealth, etc. Now, more than ever, it may be worth it to invest in your clinical and business decisions to improve your practice. We recognize that getting help is better than going at it alone.

During overwhelming or uncertain times (like these) it can be especially helpful to seek supervision or consultation. When you can’t get out of your own panic or concrete thinking, we’d like to be your thinking partner. But we know that money is uncertain, so we’re offering our 50-minute-hour at half price. That’s right – a consultation with Curt or Katie (while we’re stuck in quarantine) for only $100.

As you know, Curt and Katie have worked in a lot of different mental health settings, so we can advise on legal and ethical issues, navigating your career, clinical supervision, making decisions in your business, and a whole lot more.

Check out our offerings and sign up at Use the coupon code CAREPACKAGE at check out for your $100 discount*.

*Subject to availability and may be changed without notice.

Resources mentioned:

We’ve pulled together resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links. Please note that some of the links below might be affiliate links, so if you purchase after clicking below, we may get a little bit of cash in our pockets. We thank you in advance!

Yael’s Website: Shuman Psychotherapy

Yael Shuman’s Trauma Preparedness Training

Yael’s email: yshuman at

Therapy Reimagined 2020 Conference: Speakers!!

Therapy Reimagined 2020 Call for Sponsors

Relevant Episodes:

Preventing Client Suicide

Therapist Suicide

Responding to Mass Shootings

Death, Dying, and Grief

Managing Vicarious Trauma

Are You Sure You’re a Specialist?

Compassion Fatigue

Connect with us!

Our Facebook Group – The Modern Therapists Group

Get Notified About Therapy Reimagined 2020 (and TR2019 Virtual Conference)

Our consultation services:

The Fifty-Minute Hour

Who we are:

Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, the CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making “dad jokes” and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at:

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant supporting leaders, visionaries, executives, and helping professionals to create sustainable careers. Katie, with Curt, has developed workshops and a conference, Therapy Reimagined, to support therapists navigating through the modern challenges of this profession. Katie is also President of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt’s youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at:

A Quick Note:

Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.

Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.

Stay in Touch:

Our Facebook Group – The Modern Therapist’s Group


Voice Over by DW McCann

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano

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