Confidential First Responders Program
Our substance abuse treatment program for first responders is designed based on clinical practices proven to be effective to address the specific needs of this group of professionals.
At Recovery Centers of America (RCA) at Devon and Westminster, we strive to be the preferred residential treatment facility for first responders struggling with addiction. Whether you’re an active or former law enforcement officer, firefighter, correctional officer, EMT/paramedic, or veteran––we can help you manage the ripple effects of substance abuse. We can help advocate on your behalf with your union, department, and employee assistance program if you choose to include them in your treatment.
We are committed to your privacy, making it a top priority. In our First Responders, program you will be provided with:
- Specialty groups for first responders only
- Private first responder group therapy sessions
- Peer support groups formed exclusively of first responders
- Individualized treatment specifically for first responders
The treatment provided is geared specifically to meet your needs as a first responder. You’ll also be engaged with staff members who are or were first responders. At RCA Devon, we also provide a separate lounge and classroom space, private gym time, and private 12-Step meetings run by first responders.
RCA is proud to host RESCU, a 12-Step meeting for law enforcement, firefighters, corrections, emergency medical personnel, and veterans. RESCU (Recovering Emergency Service Community United) is held weekly at RCA Devon on Wednesdays from 20:00-21:30.
RESCU meetings are also every Monday from 19:30-20:45 at our Voorhees location.
RCA also has a First Responders Recovery Meeting every Tuesday 19:00-20:00 at our Lighthouse (Mays Landing, NJ) location. This free meeting is open for all to attend.
This meeting is open to all first responders who are seeking recovery from addiction––there is no need to register.
Our program is tailored to address the specific obstacles encountered by first responders, including:
- Work-related traumatic events
- Guilt about breaking public trust
- Drinking culture
- Difficulty asking for help
- Mistrust in mental health professionals
- Fear of losing their jobs or pay
- Fear of disappointing their co-workers or their departments
Curriculum Preview for First Responders: Addiction Treatment Program
Do you want to learn more about RCA’s First Responders Addiction Treatment Program? Download this preview of the proprietary clinical content we use every day at our facilities.
Our First Responders Program Core Curriculum
As a result of our comprehensive understanding of the unique needs of first responders, we’ve created a curriculum specifically designed to address their individual challenges.
First Responder Group Therapy
Patients engaged in RCA’s First Responders Program will meet daily in groups formed exclusively of their peers, such as law enforcement, firefighters, correctional officers, emergency medical personnel, and veterans. Participating in peer-focused groups can give first responders a higher level of confidence to discuss their specific challenges, which improves therapy and proves crucial to recovery.
Group therapy is a critical component of treatment, and we know first responders open up more in groups of their peers. That’s why RCA’s group therapy for first responders consists of one specialized therapist using evidence-based practices in a group comprised entirely of first responders. The fear of judgment from people outside their circle keeps many first responders from sharing in traditional group settings, which is why we’ve eliminated this barrier. This group is facilitated by a licensed clinician and conducted in a private group room.
Specialty Program Clinical Psychoeducation
Our First Responders Program puts a detailed focus on discussing first responders’ unique cultural challenges and workplace pressures, such as hyper-masculinity and the need to maintain control at all times. Run by credentialed clinicians with years of experience working with first responders, this program is designed to effectively remove psychological barriers to treatment and maximize the power of the first responder culture of camaraderie.
RCA also provides first responders with efficient tools to make a successful return to duty. We facilitate meetings and ongoing communications between first responders returning to work and their union representatives, command staff and/or employee assistance program. If you do not want workplace involvement, that decision will be honored without question.
Common Challenges for First Responders Seeking Addiction Treatment
First responders face special workplace challenges and unique pressures stemming from their work culture. Addressing these challenges is the foundation of RCA’s approach to helping first responders. Our credentialed and certified staff is well-trained and successful in identifying and resolving the following challenges to help first responders recover.
There is a strong mistrust of mental health professionals in first responder culture, further enabled by a strong sense of camaraderie and protecting each other from outside consequences. First responders tend to see mental health professionals as forces that may cause them to lose pay or even the job itself, which can lead to dealing with addiction and alcoholism ‘in-house.’
Treating first responders begins with earning their trust. RCA’s First Responders Program employs clinical staff experienced with exclusively treating first responders and being immersed in their culture. RCA also recruits peer support staff from law enforcement, fire service, corrections, EMS, and the military who come with their own personal and professional familiarity with addiction and recovery. RCA’s First Responder Peers help to bridge the gap between clinical treatment and first responder culture.
First responders struggle with asking for help. A reluctance to ask for help is a product of a ‘never accept defeat, never quit’ mentality in the workplace. While this may keep first responders mentally and physically protected on the job, it often becomes a barrier to treatment.
Specially trained staff facilitate peer-run support groups, introduce first responders to the 12 Steps in their own unique language and provide a personal example of recovery.
Fear of Judgment
While self-disclosure is a basic tenant of recovery, it can be uncomfortable for first responders to share their stories with people outside their circles. Many fear that revealing what they did in their addiction and the wreckage it may have caused will bring shame to their department, family, and colleagues, or may even get them fired.
When first responders are brought together in a separate space entirely amongst their peers, the fear of judgment dissipates, and there is an opportunity to talk about the real issues. No matter where a police officer’s addiction has taken him or her, there is another police officer in the room that has been there and can offer a level of hope that a therapist alone may not be able to provide.
Because camaraderie is an asset in first responder culture and early recovery, RCA helps to foster this by treating first responders’ inpatient stays like their time at the academy. They’ll bond with their fellow first responders in a way that we hope will keep them connected for life.
RCA’s goal is to assist first responders in establishing lifelong recovery from addiction. For most first responders, the greatest obstacles in sobriety begin after rehab when they return to work and family life. Dealing with the typical on-the-job stresses without the comfort and relief of alcohol or other substance can seem impossible. This is why Peer Support is such a major component of treatment at RCA.
Support groups and 12-Step meetings remain open to all first responders after they complete treatment, providing a long-term outlet for these stresses, as well as a place where first responders in recovery can feel completely accepted. Peer support groups are full of first responders who have, in sobriety, excelled in their careers, received promotions and commendations, and returned to being great parents and partners. No first responder should feel alone in early recovery. Our Peer Support Network gives answers and hope to the newly sober first responder.
When engaged with RCA’s First Responders Program, you will never feel pressured to report your treatment to your department. We will help you to understand how your job is protected through the Americans With Disabilities Act, offer to complete FMLA paperwork to secure your job while you are getting help, and will protect your privacy within the community. We will also help you to navigate through your department’s policies on substance use, inpatient treatment, and return to duty requirements. If disclosing your treatment will be beneficial to you, your job, your family, and your recovery, we will work with any and all entities of your organization to guarantee a thorough return-to-duty process is in place. This could include union representatives, employee assistance professionals, command staff, direct supervisors, and human resources. Absolutely nothing is done on your behalf unless a detailed consent form is completed.
Trauma Treatment for First Responders
There is a strong need for integrated treatment for both substance abuse and trauma with First Responders. Regardless of the size of their department, if they work in an urban or rural area, if they work in a minimum-security prison or drive an ambulance in a quiet town, First Responders will be exposed to traumatic images and events throughout the course of their duties. Some First Responders develop Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), some develop cumulative stress while others experience some symptoms of posttraumatic stress for a period of time. It is important to mention that not all First Responders battle PTSD, however, First Responders are exposed to traumatic events (violence, natural disasters, mass causalities, threat of death) at a much higher frequency than the general population.
SMART Recovery at RCA Devon
Recovery Centers of America utilizes a 12-Step model and fosters participation in programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous to support lifelong recovery management. As leaders in the field of addiction treatment, RCA recognizes that recovery is personal and individual: What works well for one first responder may not work as well for another. That’s one reason RCA offers first responders a weekly evidence-based support group called SMART Recovery, an acronym for Self-Management and Recovery Training.
Many first responders have found SMART Recovery to be helpful, principally because SMART Recovery is science-based and constantly updated to incorporate the most accurate, cutting edge research.
SMART Recovery meetings are facilitated by trained group leaders in a small, private setting. Participants are guided through a self-paced workbook that focuses on identifying and changing unwanted behaviors through Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). This approach is empowering and individualized. Similar to 12-Step meetings, SMART Recovery meetings can be found in most communities, free of charge.
Alumni of RCA’s First Responders Program are invited to continue to participate in SMART Recovery meetings after completing treatment.
For more information on SMART Recovery, click here
For more information on Alcoholics Anonymous, click here