Program Teaches Resilience, Improves Behavioral Health of First Responders

In an effort to combat first responder post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicides, a group of Colorado professionals have created a resiliency program. It all began in January of last year.

According to a detailed article on, the Colorado Department of Public Health Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response, Centura Health (Colo.) Prehospital Emergency Services, and Philip Callahan, PhD, and Michael Marks, PhD, got together to create two consecutive one-day classes, called First Response Resiliency, in Aurora, Colo.

As defined in the article, “resiliency is the ability of an individual to bounce back from life’s adversity, cope with stresses and deal with these stresses in healthy ways. Because self-efficacy—most simply defined as the belief in one's capabilities to achieve a goal or an outcome—is related to stress reactions and quality of coping in threatening situations, maintaining a sense of personal self-efficacy, owing to resiliency, becomes foundational to producing, through one’s actions, the desired level of performance. Supportive of this foundational effort is the personal examination of the individuals’ past experiences that contributes to the belief of survivorship versus victimhood.”

The goal of First Response Resiliency was to help participants manage their stress effectively using resiliency practices and establish social frameworks to support their personal resilience. According to the article there was a specific focus on assessment, research-based resiliency methods and the physical, psychological and social systems of resiliency.

The program addressed the following 12 resiliency skills:

1) Goal setting
2) Nutrition
3) Exercise
4) Sleep
5) Relaxation
6) ABCs (Activating events, Beliefs and Consequences)
7) Perspective
8) Self-defeating thoughts
9) Empathy
10) Wins and losses
11) Reaching out
12) Social support

The program was broken down into various portions, including a review of prior skills, group work and a case study – all with segments devoted to identifying resiliency skills, applying the skills both personally and outward in a community setting and completing a comprehensive review of the skills discussed.

The creators of the program used the classes as a research study as well, obtaining detailed feedback from the participants and recording their levels of resiliency before and after the classes. The Response to Stressful Experiences Scale (RSES) test from the VA National Center for PTSD was used to measure the participants’ resiliency levels.

In summary of the results of the study, the article states, “This study suggests resiliency characteristics can be taught effectively using compressed one-day problem-based learning. Both cohorts achieved significant improvements in resiliency scores from pre-test to post-test. Further, it appears within the term of approximately six weeks, the effects are sustained.”

According to the article, upon completion of the classes, all 15 respondents said they would recommend this training to other people.

The researchers plan on conducting more research in this area by replicating the resiliency classes in more diverse settings. There is also a possibility that spousal and family resiliency education will be incorporated.


For a lot more information, see our source for this summary, the comprehensive article here: