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.
RCA is proud to host RESCU, a 12-Step meeting for law enforcement, fire, 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. Starting on September 7, 2018, RESCU is launching a meeting at RCA Voorhees . Meetings will be held Tuesdays from 19:30-21:00
This meeting is open to all first responders who are seeking recovery from addiction––there is no need to register. For more information, click here.
Our private substance abuse rehabilitation program can help you get mentally and physically healthy again so you can get back to your calling to help others in their time of crisis.
At Recovery Centers of America (RCA), 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 fully committed to your privacy, making it a top priority. In fact, we guarantee you’ll only be roomed with another first responder and provided with:
- A separate lounge
- Separate classroom space
- Private 12-Step meetings run by first responders
- Private first responder group therapy sessions
- Private gym time
- Peer support groups formed exclusively of first responders
- Transportation to and from our treatment center by an on-staff first responder, if requested
The program consists of specific activities and additional staff certification to meet the needs of the first responders we serve. When engaged in treatment, first responders will work closely with a full-time Return-To-Duty Coordinator whose goal is to help get you back to work as quickly and efficiently as possible. You’ll also be engaged with staff members who, themselves, are first responders living a life of recovery.
At Recovery Centers of America, we know it isn’t just your career on the line, but your life, too. We’re here to help you address your addiction so you can move forward and get back to your family, your career and your passion.
Our program is tailored to address the specific obstacles encountered by first responders, including:
- Work-related traumatic events
- Guilt about breaking public trust
- Acute and chronic pain from injuries incurred in the line of duty
- 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
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.
First responders are housed together in separate rooms, which eases the hesitation many first responders experience when considering whether or not to enter treatment. We guarantee that you residing with people who share your background of service.
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.
For more information about the First Responders Program,
please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
All email inquiries are 100% confidential.
Meet the First Responders Team
Clare Seletsky is the Director of the First Responders Program at Recovery Centers of America.
Since earning her Masters degree in Clinical Counseling and Industrial Organizational Psychology from La Salle University, Clare has dedicated her entire professional career to serving law enforcement, firefighters, correctional officers, EMS and military veterans. After completing internships with Suffolk County House of Corrections and New Jersey State Police’s Office of Employee and Organization Development, she went on to spend five years developing the First Responders Addiction Treatment program at Livengrin Foundation. Clare came to RCA in 2017 with the goal of building the most comprehensive and effective treatment program for First Responders.
Clare has assessed and treated over 1600 First Responders with substance use disorders and posttraumatic stress. Through these experiences, Clare has learned how to make First Responders and their families feel comfortable throughout each step of the treatment process. She is certified in Critical Incident Stress Management and has spent many years volunteering with Concerns of Police Survivors and the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
David Lacy is a Certified Recovery Specialist and First Responder Peer Leader at RCA Devon
Dave is a retired police officer from Montgomery County, PA with 34 years of highly decorated service. His duties included investigating and reconstructing fatal traffic accidents with the Highway Patrol Unit while also instructing at the Montgomery County and Philadelphia County Police Academies. Dave was a Team Leader for the Central Montgomery County Hostage Negotiation Squad. Dave also has a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice from West Chester University.
After going through treatment for his own addiction, Dave is now in long term recovery from drugs and alcohol. He enjoys openly and honestly sharing his experiences with others who need help. Dave’s goal each day is to provide hope to the new First Responder by showing his peers that treatment works and recovery is possible. At Devon, Dave facilitates seminars on recovery, takes First Responders to 12-Step meetings in the community, provides 1:1 peer support and accompanies our First Responders to an inhouse 12-Step meeting
Ralph Thompson is a Certified Recovery Specialist and First Responder Peer Leader at RCA Devon
Ralph has a diverse background of public service, beginning as a volunteer firefighter during his teenage years in Waldorf, MD. After high school, Ralph enlisted into the United States Army and was stationed at Fort Bliss, TX. After his time in the military, Ralph went on to become a Patrol Officer with the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington DC. After seven years on the hiring list for his dream job with the District of Columbia Fire Department, he finally got the call and transferred to DCFD in 1997. Ralph is now a Lieutenant and has earned his Associate’s degree in Fire Science from the College of Southern Maryland.
Throughout his 32 years of public service, Ralph has personally experienced the effects of both post-traumatic stress and alcohol abuse. When his life became unmanageable, he reached out for help and sought treatment at an inpatient program for First responders. Today, Ralph is in long term recovery and able to service his community not only as a firefighter, but also as a Peer Leader and Certified Recovery Specialist – helping guide others struggling with addiction towards a solution.
Brendan Bell is the General Chair of the Recovering Emergency Services Community United 12-Step Meeting (RESCU)
Brendan helped to develop this meeting to suit the needs of First Responders in early and long term recovery from addiction after recognizing the benefit of First Responder- specific 12-Step Meetings, where confidentiality and camaraderie are of paramount importance. Brendan is a former police Sergeant from Montgomery County where he served his community for 21 years. During his career, he worked in patrol, the Special Investigations Unit and Auxiliary Services. He has received numerous certifications and commendations throughout his career.
Currently, Brendan is a member of the Montgomery County CISM (Critical Incident Stress Management) Team. Brendan has long term recovery and is active in the 12-Step community, specifically with First Responders. He has a true passion for helping First Responders achieve and continue sobriety and is actively involved in several First Responder support groups and 12-Step meetings in the local area. In addition to chairing RESCU, Brendan volunteers his time to provide individual peer support for First Responders in treatment at RCA Devon and also has provided training for staff on police culture and the concerns police officers face throughout the treatment process.
Alexis Fryer serves as a Primary Therapist for the First Responders group at Recovery Centers of America
Alexis earned a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from West Chester University, and her Master’s degree in Social Service from Bryn Mawr College. She is a licensed Social Worker in the state of Pennsylvania and is a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional.
Alexis has dedicated her career to serving those battling the disease of addiction. She has experience working in both inpatient and outpatient substance abuse treatment settings. At Devon, Alexis works individually with the First Responders to assess their needs, assist in identifying their goals and formulate comprehensive treatment plans while maintaining their integrity and valor. Alexis also facilitates dedicated process groups specifically designed for First Responders and works closely with
April Gucene serves as a Primary Therapist for the First Responders group at Recovery Centers of America
April graduated from Rosemont College with a Masters degree in Clinical Counseling with a concentration in Substance Use Disorders and Trauma Studies. During her undergraduate studies at Widener University, she interned with the First Responders Addiction Treatment Program at Livengrin Foundation where she began to find her passion for helping law enforcement, fire fighters, EMS, correctional officers and military veterans. Following her internship, she was hired as the Specialty Care Coordinator for the First Responders Addiction Treatment Program and later was promoted to the role of Primary Therapist. April has experience with providing comprehensive treatment to First Responders and their families; assisting throughout the continuum of care.
April provides First Responders with assistance to reach their goals through group and individual
therapy, as well as collaboration with the family. April is honored to support First Responders on their
path to recovery.
Michael Bernardo is the Return to Duty Coordinator at RCA Devon.
Michael earned a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Communications Studies from West Chester University and has a Peer Support Specialist certification in the state of Pennsylvania. Michael joined RCA Devon as a Recovery Support Specialist and earned the position of Return to Duty Coordinator through his dedication to individualized care and long-term recovery.
As the Return to Duty Coordinator, Michael works tirelessly to prepare our First Responders to re-enter the workplace. Michael heads up all case management needs and communication with departments, unions and EAP’s during treatment, including the crucial task of coordinating medical leave. Michael assists our First Responders with everything needed to remain comfortable in treatment and prepared to return to duty.
With a background in Communications, prior professional experience and a strong understanding of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, Michael makes for a dynamic part of the First Responders team.
Trauma Treatment and Education 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.
To address this reality, RCA Devon’s First Responders Program offers a trauma treatment called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing). First Responders with trauma histories and/or trauma symptoms will be offered up to four EMDR Sessions per 28 day stay at RCA Devon. Our licensed therapist, Christopher Willson, LPC, is an EMDRIA trained level II EMDR clinician and has been using EMDR with his clients for over 10 years.
Learn more about EMDR
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. To RSVP for a meeting, or for more information please email email@example.com
For more information on SMART Recovery, click here
For more information on Alcoholics Anonymous, click here