First Responders Programs

First Responders such as police, dispatchers, firefighters, paramedics/ambulance attendants, and front-line health workers have some of the most difficult jobs in the world. They are often faced with life-or-death decisions and are repeatedly exposed to the traumatic events that most of us don’t want to think about. While such work can be immensely rewarding, there is often a heavy cost.

Dr. Friesen has been working with First Responders in various capacities for almost 20-years and has seen the difficulties some First Responders experience as a result of their work.

At Niagara Neuropsychology, we are opening up and expanding our offerings for First Responders. Over the last few years, Dr. Friesen and his team developed and implemented the annual Optimal Psychological Performance Assessment (OPPA)  for specialty units and dispatchers/communicators at the Niagara Regional Police Service (NRPS) as part of their larger Safeguarding program.

This has been a ground-breaking program and, as far as we are aware, the first Safeguarding program in North America to incorporate objective neuropsychological and psychophysiological measurements. Dr. Friesen designed the OPPA by incorporating aspects of assessments he has developed for elite athletes (e.g., professional and Olympic athletes), executives, those with brain injuries, and patients who are suffering from depression and anxiety (including PTSD).

We are now opening this program up to First Responders in general, including police officers, dispatchers/communicators, firefighters, paramedics/ambulance attendants, and front-line health workers (e.g., physicians, nurses, etc.).

Our program is designed to help First Responders identify psychological, neuropsychological, and physiological difficulties early (often before self-awareness) by using objective and evidence-based measurements.

The main goal is to help prevent stress-related injuries (e.g., Posttraumatic Stress Disorder—PTSD, burnout, etc.). Like elite athletes, First Responders need to be in top psychological, neuropsychological/cognitive, and physiological shape in order to perform at their potential. Thus, a second goal of the program is to identify decrements in optimal performance and functioning and help provide timely solutions.

The OPPA is designed to be repeated every 6 to 12 months in order to track difficulties and functioning. This is valuable for detecting both positive and negative changes in psychological/emotional, behavioural, neuropsychological/cognitive, and psychophysiological functioning early to help ensure First Responders are performing and functioning optimally.

We are offering 3 levels (tiers) of the annual assessment:

Top Tier—Advanced Assessment:

  • Detailed Background Form in order to help Dr. Friesen obtain a comprehensive picture of one’s life history and perceived difficulties to aid in the assessment process.
  • Psychological/Emotional testing to help identify psychological/emotional/behavioural difficulties. Over 50 scales will be used to measure such difficulties including anxiety/PTSD, depression, substance overuse/abuse, interpersonal problems, perceived cognitive difficulties, levels of social support, risk-taking, anger/irritability, suicidal ideation, physical problems/chronic pain, and perceived stress. It also helps identify those First Responders that are open to and likely to benefit from psychological treatment.
  • Psychosocial functioning/impairment testing using empirically based, norm-referenced tools designed to evaluate possible impairment in 15 major domains of psychosocial functioning.
  • Detailed Personality assessment using the most researched and reliable personality measurement in order to help identify one’s personality tendencies, both positive and negative. Detailed analysis of the global 5 Factors of Personality (aka the Big 5) in addition to 35 sub-traits. Feedback will also be provided regarding one’s most distinctive characteristics (and when they work to one’s advantage and disadvantage), decision making and problem-solving tendencies, planning/organizing/implementation skills, styles of relating to others, and one’s “emotional signature” (i.e., personal emotional style).
  • Free copy of Achieve: Find out who you are, what you really want, and how to make it happen in order to help the First Responder further understand how their personality and other characteristics are affecting their lives and what to do about it.
  • Neuropsychological/Cognitive screening to help identify cognitive strengths and weaknesses. For example, decreased cognitive performance may be an indicator of a number of difficulties including sleep problems, substance abuse, concussions, early stages of dementia (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease), or any other problems with the brain. These often need to be identified early in order to prevent potential permanent cognitive impairment. We will measure a number of neuropsychological/cognitive functions including attention, concentration, reaction time, learning/memory, processing speed, and decision-making/inhibition. Such testing provides data to assess one’s overall cognitive/brain health and performance status. Similar to how all NHL, NFL, and many other professional teams use yearly neuropsychological/cognitive testing, this testing will prove valuable to identify cognitive changes over time.
  • Psychophysiological Stress Profiling to determine and quantify problems with coping and stress regulation. This is done in order to objectively identify the reactions of different bodily functions to stressors. During the Psychophysiological Stress Profile, common physiological “stress” parameters are measured including muscle tension, skin conductance (i.e., sweat response), temperature (a measure of stress), respiration/breathing, and heart rate (including Heart Rate Variability or HRV). The Psychophysiological Stress Profile provides information as to whether the First Responder is experiencing high levels of stress (even if they are not aware of it), if they are demonstrating the expected reaction to stressors, and if their bodies are having difficulty recovering from stressors. This information can guide feedback and recommendations for optimal functioning strategies.
  • 19-Channel Electroencephalograph (EEG) brain mapping is done to help estimate brain health, difficulties with calming the brain (e.g., hypervigilance), effects of sleep deprivation, and problems with attention/concentration and executive functioning. Full 19-channel brain mapping provides detailed information regarding how the First Responder’s brain is functioning relative to others of their age. (PUT BRAIN MAPPING PICS HERE):
  • 1-hour feedback session with Dr. Friesen to review assessment results and provide recommendations for optimal functioning.
  • COST: $995

Middle Tier—Intermediate Assessment:

  • Detailed Background Form in order to help Dr. Friesen obtain a comprehensive picture of one’s life history and perceived difficulties to aid in the assessment process.
  • Psychological/Emotional testing to help identify psychological/emotional/behavioural difficulties. Over 50 scales will be used to measure such difficulties including anxiety/PTSD, depression, substance overuse/abuse, interpersonal problems, perceived cognitive difficulties, levels of social support, risk-taking, anger/irritability, suicidal ideation, physical problems/chronic pain, and perceived stress. It also helps identify those First Responders that are open to and likely to benefit from psychological treatment.
  • Psychosocial functioning/impairment testing using empirically based, norm-referenced tools designed to evaluate possible impairment in 15 major domains of psychosocial functioning.
  • Neuropsychological/Cognitive screening to help identify cognitive strengths and weaknesses. For example, decreased cognitive performance may be an indicator of a number of difficulties including sleep problems, substance abuse, concussions, early stages of dementia (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease), or any other problems with the brain. These often need to be identified early in order to prevent potential permanent cognitive impairment. We will measure a number of neuropsychological/cognitive functions including attention, concentration, reaction time, learning/memory, processing speed, and decision-making/inhibition. Such testing provides data to assess one’s overall cognitive/brain health and performance status. Similar to how all NHL, NFL, and many other professional teams use yearly neuropsychological/cognitive testing, this testing will prove valuable to identify cognitive changes over time.
  • Psychophysiological Stress Profiling to determine and quantify problems with coping and stress regulation. This is done in order to objectively identify the reactions of different bodily functions to stressors. During the Psychophysiological Stress Profile, common physiological “stress” parameters are measured including muscle tension, skin conductance (i.e., sweat response), temperature (a measure of stress), respiration/breathing, and heart rate (including Heart Rate Variability or HRV). The Psychophysiological Stress Profile provides information as to whether the First Responder is experiencing high levels of stress (even if they are not aware of it), if they are demonstrating the expected reaction to stressors, and if their bodies are having difficulty recovering from stressors. This information can guide feedback and recommendations for optimal functioning strategies.
  • 1-Channel Electroencephalograph (EEG) is done to help estimate brain health, difficulties with calming the brain (e.g., hypervigilance), effects of sleep deprivation, and problems with attention/concentration and executive functioning.
  • 1-hour feedback session with Dr. Friesen to review assessment results and provide recommendations for optimal functioning.
  • COST: $695

Bottom Tier—Brief/Basic Assessment:

  • Detailed Background Form in order to help Dr. Friesen obtain a comprehensive picture of one’s life history and perceived difficulties to aid in the assessment process.
  • Psychological/Emotional testing to help identify psychological/emotional/behavioural difficulties. Over 50 scales will be used to measure such difficulties including anxiety/PTSD, depression, substance overuse/abuse, interpersonal problems, perceived cognitive difficulties, levels of social support, risk-taking, anger/irritability, suicidal ideation, physical problems/chronic pain, and perceived stress. It also helps identify those First Responders that are open to and likely to benefit from psychological treatment.
  • Psychosocial functioning/impairment testing using empirically based, norm-referenced tools designed to evaluate possible impairment in 15 major domains of psychosocial functioning.
  • 1-hour feedback session with Dr. Friesen to review assessment results and provide recommendations for optimal functioning.
  • COST: $395

Other notes about the OPPA assessment:

  • No information from this assessment will be shared with the employer.
  • For those with extended health benefits, the cost of the assessment process is likely covered as it falls under psychological assessment or treatment.
  • Payment is made via credit card. The patient/client submits the invoice/receipt to their insurer for reimbursement.
  • There is no year-to-year commitment.
  • The results of these assessments are not designed for WSIB or medical-legal claims.

8-Week First Responder NeuroPhysiological Stress Reduction Program (IN DEVELOPMENT)