The Littlest Therapist & Firefighter

by Kellie Medendorp, LCSW, CFRC

I am so pleased to announce to our Emergency Responders communities that Equilibria has created a specialty program to meet the unique needs of Emergency Responders. I am the founder and lead clinician of this center. It is important to me that Emergency Responders have access to support professionals and resources who understand the culture and demands of the job. The purpose of this article is to help people get to know me a little better and my passion for the Emergency Responders Program.

Volunteering and helping others are values I developed in my childhood. My parents raised me with religion throughout my childhood and adolescence, and while my beliefs have transformed over the years, these two values have remained important to me. Volunteer firefighting is something my father has been involved in since he was a teenager and introduced to my siblings and me when we were young. With these values in mind, it made sense to me when I was a teenager to join the fire company he and my brother belonged to. The belief I have always held is “as long as I am healthy and able, I should be there to help my neighbors in times of great need.” I became a junior member of the fire company for a couple years until it was time for college.

I originally applied for and was accepted into the physical therapy program at my college. However, I quickly realized this wasn’t my calling or something that I felt passionate about. My career aspirations were always something along the lines of helping others through counseling. I made the decision to switch my major to psychology and social work, which brought me immense peace and joy because I knew I was in the right place. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in both areas and chose to pursue a master’s degree in social work with a focus on the education system.

Working with emergency responders wasn’t my initial plan. My “dream job” at the time was to be a counselor in a school and working with children. I have always loved working with kids, especially adolescents, and I value education. After working in drug and alcohol treatment for a few years (which is another population of people I loved working with), I finally accomplished my goal of being a counselor in a high school. At the same time, I had rejoined a new fire company and started to realize the toll firefighting had on my peers. And then I started paying attention to other responders I interacted with and the ways the job affected them. This is where my passion grew for what I’m doing now. All of our responders who show up first to any type of crisis need to know someone is there for them that is compassionate and understands the demands of the job when they inevitably need someone to talk to.

The Emergency Responders Program is my new “dream job”. I’m excited about the current responders I’m working with, as well as the potential responders I will come into contact with through this program. Responders are truly a unique group of individuals and it’s a privilege to volunteer alongside them as well as be there for their therapy journey.