Dr. Sachi Ananda, director of the Shatterproof program for first responders at FHE Health.

FHE Health’s ‘Dr. Sachi’ guides first responders through recovery

Becoming the grounding force to direct Shatterproof – the specialized treatment program for first responders at FHE Health – has dispatched Dr. Sachi Ananda on an amazing faith- and knowledge-building path:

  • Vietnamese refugee as a child who settled with her family in Spokane, Washington.
  • She grew up in a military family where she saw the effects post-traumatic stress disorder can have.
  • She pursued a career in journalism before being laid off from the newspaper she worked for.
  • Followed a spiritual path back through Buddhism on which she met a teacher doing addiction work.
  • Family members and significant others battling problems with alcohol.
  • Completed a master’s in mental health counseling and a doctorate in clinical psychology.
  • She became a chemical dependency counselor.
  • Worked for the VA.

“When I had an emotional crisis, I found my teacher who helped me on a personal and professional level look outside myself for my strength,” Dr. Sachi discloses. “This spiritual teacher was doing addiction work, and I decided I wanted to do that, too. If I could find that strength within, I thought it could help me become a stabilizing force for clients in recovery.”

Could there be a more qualified person to drive Shatterproof’s No. 1 goal to help first responders return as soon as possible to their roles as public servants in their communities and families than Dr. Sachi? Shatterproof employs evidence-based therapies, innovative medical care, neuro-rehabilitative services and a comprehensive wellness program to help first responders successfully manage their conditions and/or achieve life-long recovery from drugs and alcohol.

Dr. Sachi is trained in one of those innovative therapies Shatterpoof utilizes known as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EDMR). Other certifications she has obtained and specialized skills she has developed to treat first responders include motivational interviewing, relapse prevention, sex therapy, and family interventions.

All of which has equipped Shatterproof to be a consummate option for addressing the fact that roughly one in three first responders develop a behavioral health condition like PTSD as a result of their jobs.

“We are using state-of-the-art technology in conjunction with psychiatric and psychological trauma intervention to address the need for first responders to get treatment for addiction and mental health issues that are contributing to the increase in the number or suicides in the field,” Dr. Sachi reasons. “That has helped us to quickly impact first responders in their healing process and get them back to work and back to their communities as soon as possible.”

Under Dr. Sachi’s direction, Shatterproof has made breakthroughs with three aspects of treatment for first responders fighting addition and mental health ailments. They are designed to help first responders overcome specific obstacles and increase their ability to manage emotions during stressful situations without turning to self-medication.

One approach features neuro-rehabilitative services such as EEG brain mapping. A scan – or map – shows impact the repeated exposure to stress has on areas of the brain and how dependence on chemicals throws the brain out of balance. Computer-generated analysis of the brain’s electrical activity pinpoints any brain activity that is outside of the norm

“First responders are very concrete thinkers because they have to be,” Dr. Sachi details about why neuro-rehabilitative services have success. “It’s basically simulating the neurochemistry of the brain so it can be rebalanced.”

Neuro-rehabilitative services are coupled with trauma therapy to move to the second aspect of specialized treatment for first responders. This includes EMDR that mimics the process of going to sleep but puts trauma memories that might be stuck in the unconscious into the conscious life and reprocesses them to keep them from perpetuating emotional disturbances.

“We do another brain map at the end of the treatment that actually proves the brain chemistry has changed through the neuro treatment and therapy,” Dr. Sachi adds. “For first responders, seeing is believing.”

The third aspect is based on community healing. First responders live in quarters exclusively built for them on FHE’s campus in Deerfield Beach, Florida. They can replicate the bonding and family atmosphere that reinforces the safe haven the job can provide.

“The distrust of being on guard all the time is dissolved quicker because in this environment they can trust right away,” Dr. Sachi notes. “When they have learned to trust again and be open and OK about sharing that they have struggles and stressors, they are much more open to asking for help from their family and their peers. They feel they can connect with people so they don’t go back to drugs and alcohol.”

Dr. Sachi calls the transformation first responders who come through Shatterproof to make a human experience. It’s that experience that makes her feel like the path was supposed to lead her here.

“The people we treat here go back and show that there’s nothing wrong with getting help,” Dr. Sachi emphasizes. “If they get the treatment, they can come back to functioning at a higher level. It’s a win-win for everybody.”