Emergency personnel, critical incidents and EMDR


Emergency Personnel have certain characteristics in common: There are similarities between emergency professionals regardless of the service they work in (police, fire, EMS, hospital) and there are important differences. Jeffery T. Mitchell, Ph.D., lists the key factors as control needs, obsessive thinking patterns, compulsive traits, action orientation, high need for stimulation, need for immediate gratification, difficulty saying "no" to perceived legitimate requests, rescue personality, family orientation, highly dedicated, internally motivated, and a high tolerance for stress, (Mitchell & Everly, 1994). Some characteristics of their jobs require characteristics different from those valued or communicated by many mental health professionals. It can be challenging for us to relate to this group sufficiently to establish credibility for any therapeutic relationship, including that necessary for EMDR. Knowing the characteristics is different from understanding them as functional attributes for the service these professionals provide the community. If, as we work with them, we both understand and appreciate these characteristics, our attempts at intervention may well be experienced as far more relevant and helpful than if we do not. There will be discussion of the functionality of the personality characteristics on the assumption that appreciation of these factors is critically important in meaningful work with this target group. Their daily work exposes them to events that are potentially traumatic and critical incidents are far more serious than the routinely challenging situations they face daily. Since they are the "rescuers" and not the victims, successful intervention comes from empowerment and nonverbal communication as often as not. "Support" is often not well received; it is often perceived as being for "weaklings or for people who can't cope with the stress of the profession. Do's and Donts for this group will be generated by the presenter and by the audience. Ways of framing the work will be discussed, as will be experiences doing EMDR with Emergency Personnel for a variety of issues, including critical incidents. This session is for clinicians beginning to work with emergency personnel or for clinicians more experienced with this group who may wish to review the principles they're using, discuss them with others and add their own thoughts to the experience of the group.






Kay Werk

Original Work Citation

Werk, K. (1997, June). Emergency personnel, critical incidents and EMDR. Presentation at the 2nd EMDR International Association Conference, San Francisco, CA



“Emergency personnel, critical incidents and EMDR,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed May 14, 2021, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/15916.

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