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How Veterans and First Responders Experience Trauma?

Despite advances in healthcare research, it is still unclear exactly how trauma affects our bodies and brains. We know that most people experience some variation of trauma in their lifetime. And for some people, it can lead to diseases like addiction and mental health disorders. Research indicates that some coping and treatment methods are more effective than others, and a person’s individual life experiences and genetic makeup will impact how they are able to draw on coping mechanisms. 

Due to the frequency of exposure to traumatic situations, veterans and first responders are among the most at-risk populations for the eventual failure of their coping strategies.

At Relevance Recovery, we specialize in treating disorders experienced by veterans and first responders. Our individualized programs in New Jersey will help you or your loved one fight the disease that is impacting your life. You can even verify your insurance benefits prior to completing the entire admissions process. Contact us today to get started

Veterans and Trauma

For a veteran, trauma often occurs in the field of duty during combat or training. When combined with the likelihood that traumatic events also occurred during childhood or in the years pre-service, we can assume that veterans are at a higher risk of trauma exposure than the general population. 

This study by Kachadourian et al. on mindfulness as a tool for trauma recovery reported the following:

“…a higher number of traumatic life events was associated with a reduced ability to pay attention to the present moment in U.S. military veterans. Reduced ability to pay attention to the present moment, in turn, was associated with higher number of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, positive screen for alcohol use disorder, suicidal ideation, and lower quality of life.” 2

One of the biggest threats female veterans experience regarding trauma is sexual harassment and sexual assault. In 2018, the Department of Defense reported that 6.2% of active-duty women in the U.S. experienced sexual assault in the previous year. And the rates are increased from 2016, when 4.3% of active-duty women experienced sexual assault. Further, the Department of Defense estimates that in 2018 more than 20,000 men and women experienced sexual assault in a single year.1

Relevance Recovery has treatment options for you or your loved one. We utilize holistic approaches that are backed by research to achieve optimal outcomes. One example is equine therapy, proven by research studies like this one by Johnson et al., to improve coping self-strategies and emotion regulation as well as decrease PTSD symptoms.4 You can find out more about our Relevance Recovery programs here.

First Responders and Trauma

First responders, in contrast to veterans, experience trauma in an unpredictable pattern. Some level of preparation can be made when entering a warzone, but a typical day in the life of a first responder may include death, emergencies, gunfire, and injury. 

Interestingly, less research has been done on the impact of repeated and unpredictable trauma on first responders. One reasonable suggestion is that a more significant percentage of funding is provided to organizations that support military research.

Estimates on the prevalence of trauma incidents in first responders vary greatly for several reasons. For one, low levels of reporting skew the available data. Also, trauma is perceived in different ways. So counting the number of gun-related incidents requiring a response, for instance, will not equate to the number of traumatic incidents because every first responder perceives trauma differently. What is traumatic to one may not be traumatic to another. For this reason, the term “critical incident” is routinely used.

According to Civilotti et al. (2021), Jeffrey Mitchell coined the term and defined it as:

“any situation faced by emergency service personnel that causes them to experience unusually strong emotional reactions that have the potential to interfere with their ability to function, either at the scene or later.” 3

Given the number of critical incidents that first responders face every day, combined with any previous childhood or adolescent trauma, we can assume those first responders make up a significant portion of the population who require some form of treatment or intervention to manage the consequences of their trauma.

Relevance Recovery has programs designed specifically for first responders that use research-backed therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and group therapy. 

How to Get Help

While many veterans and first responder institutions offer screening and treatment for trauma exposure, the resources may be limited or unhelpful. Relevance Recovery, located in Freehold, New Jersey, is well-equipped to treat people suffering from workplace trauma. Our skilled clinicians and holistic approach set us apart from other treatment programs. 

Our facilities and clinicians offer inpatient therapy, outpatient therapy, group therapy, adolescent/teen therapy, detox programs, intervention assistance, and aftercare, all with a holistic and practical approach. We also partner with the CFC Loud N Clear Foundation, which empowers its participants to keep growing by fostering a sober, supportive community. 

If you are suffering from a mental health disorder or substance abuse and addiction, know that we have a program tailored to your specific needs, like the Relevance Recovery’s First Responders program or the PTSD/Trauma program.



  1. Department of Defense. Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military Fiscal Year. 2018. Available online: (accessed on 9.23.2022).
  2. Kachadourian, L. K., Harpaz-Rotem, I., Tsai, J., Southwick, S., & Pietrzak, R. H. (2021). Mindfulness as a mediator between trauma exposure and mental health outcomes: Results from the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study. Psychological trauma: theory, research, practice and policy13(2), 223–230
  3. Civilotti, C., Di Fini, G., & Maran, D. A. (2021). Trauma and Coping Strategies in Police Officers: A Quantitative-Qualitative Pilot Study. International journal of environmental research and public health18(3), 982. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18030982
  4. Johnson, R. A., Albright, D. L., Marzolf, J. R., Bibbo, J. L., Yaglom, H. D., Crowder, S. M., Carlisle, G. K., Willard, A., Russell, C. L., Grindler, K., Osterlind, S., Wassman, M., & Harms, N. (2018). Effects of therapeutic horseback riding on post-traumatic stress disorder in military veteransMilitary Medical Research5(1), 3. 

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