3 Ways Fire Fighters Benefit From Group Therapy

Author: IAFF Staff

January 11, 2018

Whether you’re a fire fighter or not, sitting in a circle of total strangers and telling them about your deepest mental and emotional challenges is intimidating. Group therapy can be nerve-wracking and scary at first. You may be apprehensive about speaking up at all, or worry that people are secretly judging you.


But it’s important to remember that everyone is there for the same reason — to find support. And while you may not know the people in the group at first, you’ll quickly realize they’re not strangers at all. The men and women sitting to your right, left and across from you are all facing a battle they fear they aren’t strong enough to win, just like you. Everyone in group therapy attends because they are imperfect, and in need of help and healing. These same individuals can offer support, insight or a simple “me too” for what you may be going through.

When you engage in fire fighter group therapy, you gain:

1. SUPPORT in knowing you’re not alone in your struggles.

You know you are not the only person in the group with a particular problem. While each person’s experiences are unique, substance use and mental health problems (such as PTSD and depression) are commonly shared experiences in the circle. Group therapy works to reduce the feelings of isolation and alienation that everyone experiences, and normalizes stress and suffering. Chances are, you have much more in common with the people around you, but that’s difficult to believe when you stay quiet. So, don’t be afraid to speak up; you’re not alone.

2. PERSPECTIVE on familiar problems and self-reflection.

When you’re dealing with a mental, emotional or relationship crisis, you’re often too immersed to clearly understand it. By explaining your situation to others, you can receive feedback and insight you might never think of on your own. Someone in your group has probably dealt with the same issue and has a solution you can use. And as you keep an open mind, you’ll also be able to get advice from others on how changes in your own attitude and outlook can be beneficial in tackling your problems.   

3. ENCOURAGEMENT as you pursue sobriety.

When you first start group therapy, the circle is your support system. It’s a safe space where no judgment is passed and confidentiality is always kept. As you grow more vocal and comfortable in your group, it will be your place to vent, nod your head in agreement and give your newfound friends advice on handling the hardships that come with being a fire fighter or paramedic. And in every group meeting, you can gain a sense of accountability as you progress through recovery. Hearing how others have successfully moved forward in their sobriety will encourage you to do the same every day, and knowing you always have people in your corner can bolster your mental and emotional health exponentially.

The true beauty of group therapy is in the people who participate. Fire fighters who participate in group therapy each have a different experience in the same field of work, and can work together to intentionally improve their well-being.

At the IAFF Center of Excellence, group therapy is a core part of every treatment plan. Group therapy is held daily for those in detox and intensive inpatient care, while those in residential, partial hospitalization (PHP) or intensive outpatient programs (IOP) participate in more than 20 hours of group therapy per week. No matter which program you follow, how much you want to contribute to the group is always up to you. But as with any other form of treatment, the more you engage with group therapy, the more you’ll get out of it.

Think you could benefit from group therapy? Is substance use or a mental stress weighing on your mind, body and career? The IAFF Center of Excellence is where fire fighters go to find healing for these and other issues. To find out if this treatment is best for you, call today and speak with a representative who can help point you in the right direction.

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