Matt Johnston is co-founder of First Responder Health Inc, an organization dedicated to enhancing the behavioral health and well-being of first responders through cyber counselling, counsellor training and organizational support services. A clinical counsellor and full-time professional fire fighter, Matt has mastered the art of closing the gap between mental health services and first responders. Through his proactive, strengths-based approach, Matt’s ultimate goal is to alleviate the mental health crisis gripping first responders across North America.
Matt’s skill set is grounded by twenty years of study in the field of psychology and over ten years in clinical practice. His unique approach to conceptualizing trauma is an introspective blend of academic training, clinical practice and direct experience of attending over 2,000 emergency calls as a fire fighter in the Metro Vancouver area.
Matt is the creator of an innovative course for mental health professionals titled Occupational Awareness Training for Therapists: Understanding First Responder Trauma. This ‘first of its kind’ initiative provides specialized training to counsellors who look to build a sustainable, working relationship with first responders.
Session - Occupational Awareness for Practitioners
Description: Many first responders do not reach out for mental health support services until they experience a psychological crisis. Then, when they do, they often drop out of treatment prematurely because they feel the therapist doesn’t understand them. This has led to a social crisis where nearly half of all public safety personnel in Canada are struggling with some form of mental health disorder. But what if first responders began educating therapists on how to work more effectively with their members? Through their Occupational Awareness Training Program, Matt and his team have trained a vetted network of over 250 mental health clinicians in British Columbia. The two-day program trains clinicians and human resource personnel on how to work with first responders. This program ensures the network of clinicians will take a consistent approach that will destigmatize reaching out, simplify service access and ultimately attract more first responder clients to therapy. Matt will share an outline of their level 1 training and stories of success and challenge. He will also discuss how this course is becoming a movement that is now spreading across Canada and where we go from here.