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PTSD, First Responders, and Trauma-Informed Care

Paramedics, EMTs, police officers, firefighters, and rescue workers have high risk for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), roughly 1 in 3 first responders develop PTSD.

PTSD and trauma can reshape the brain, alter brainwave activity, and negatively impact the daily lives of those suffering from PTSD or other trauma. A study comparing brain wave patterns of traumatized subjects to the brain waves of “normal” subjects found that subjects with PTSD had less coherent brain waves compared to the norm. In addition, they failed to generate the brain wave pattern that helps people focus by filtering out irrelevant information. The results of this study could explain why so many traumatized people have trouble learning from experiences and fully engaging in their lives. Their brains are not organized to pay careful attention to what is going on in the present moment.

At Bhakti Brain Health Clinic we use something called trauma-informed care, as well as neurotherapy, to treat PTSD. The five principles of trauma informed care are:

  1. Safety
  2. Choice
  3. Collaboration
  4. Trustworthiness
  5. Empowerment

Trauma-informed care shifts the focus from “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?” Its goal is to improve patient engagement, treatment adherence, healthy outcomes, as well as provider and staff wellness.

tired female firefighter in uniform with helmet sitting on truck at fire station
Hand of young supportive man consoling his friend with post traumatic syndrome

Another study sought to measure the efficacy of neurofeedback for PTSD and found that twenty sessions of neurofeedback resulted in a 40 percent decrease in PTSD symptoms in a group of participants with chronic histories of trauma who had not significantly responded to talk or drug therapy. Not only did Neurofeedback training decrease PTSD symptoms, it also improved executive functioning, the capacity to plan activities, to anticipate the consequences of one’s actions, to move easily between one task and another, and to feel in control over one’s emotions, by about a 60 percent increase. Executive functioning predicts how well a person will function in relationships, in school performance, and at work which are invaluable for everyone but particularly those suffering from PTSD and trauma.

Neurofeedback is an excellent alternative or supplement to medication for those who have PTSD because it is long-lasting and non-invasive – even after you’ve finished your brain training sessions.