Episode 8: How to “Date Around” to find a Great Counselor

Noel chats with Renee & Tiffany. Both are professional counselors, embedded within Peer Support teams in the Pacific Northwest. Tiffany is also in Law Enforcement. These guests provide a peak behind the curtain of the counselor world so you – the First Responder or Military member – have more confidence in choosing a counselor that can help you navigate the challenges you’re encountering.

Stronger Families Podcast

Episode: How to “Date Around” to find a Great Counselor

Welcome to the Stronger Families Podcast, a space for candid conversations with real heroes that sheds light on the side of things not glorified in the media. In each episode, we learn about what goes on when these heroes go home, so that together we can build a stronger family. Today, Noel Meador, host and CEO of Stronger Families, joins co-host Keni Thomas for an interview with professional counselors Renee and Tiffany about how to find a great counselor for you.

When it comes to first responder issues and looking at all perspectives, these two women not only speak from a place of experience but also with the knowledge of being counselors. Renee has been a licensed mental health counselor for over 20 years who primarily sees first responders in her private practice. Tiffany works as a police officer for a municipality police department. She has been doing law enforcement for over 15 years and is now also a counselor in Washington state. Although most first responders seek counseling for relationship issues, Renee reveals that most of them have very solid foundations in their relationships. As a first responder herself, Tiffany knows that admitting you are struggling and need help is a major fear. Over the years in law enforcement, Tiffany has seen a growth of support and stigmatization around talking to a counselor.

The most known technique for intervention is cognitive behavior therapy, but this method is not the most effective for counseling first responders who typically have more specific needs. Listeners are urged to be choosy about the therapist or counselor that you decide to stick with. If they aren’t practicing techniques suited to you, find someone who can relate to your specific professional experiences. Renee speaks to the strengths and weaknesses of EMDR vs. Life Span techniques. Then, she answers the question of how long counseling takes to instill a noticeable change in a person. As a first responder, Tiffany knows about how often they are looking for a quick fix. Counseling is a very individual thing, so it’s hard to make broad assumptions in regards to how many sessions a person needs before things start changing for them. It’s important not to let emotional layers build up and address things as they happen.

The spouse of a first responder does hear all about the things the first responder is seeing on a daily basis. Similarly, the thought of harm coming your spouse’s way is a very real and common worry, not to mention the general public’s newfound negative perspective on law enforcement.  Vicarious trauma encompasses hearing the stories your spouse goes through. Seeking professional help can also help first responder parents explain their work and absences to their children. Thus, the spouse may very well need help by a counselor just as much as the first responder.

As the episode wraps up, Renee and Tiffany offer advice for listeners struggling to find a good counselor. This is a field where it is very necessary to be picky. Start by asking if they work with trauma and first responders, and don’t be afraid to date around and try several counselors in order to find the best one for you.

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04:50 – Welcome to this episode with guests Renee and Tiffany.

05:32 – Today’s guests introduce themselves.

07:50 – The top issues for first responders right now.

09:51 – What prevents first responders from seeking out help?

12:58 – The decreasing stigma around getting help as a law enforcer.

16:12 –  How to let first responders know it’s okay to be vulnerable.

19:37 – EMDR vs. Life Span.

21:43 – The average length for counseling to instill an effective change.

26:06 – Does the spouse of a first responder need support too?

31:02 – The difficulty finding a good counselor.

33:55 – Thank you to Tiffany and Renee for joining us today.

36:20 – Noel and Keni share their takeaways from today’s conversation.


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