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Firefighters accessing care for trauma: A clinical case series testing the efficacy of distance-delivered narrative exposure therapy in reducing PTSD/I symptoms

Keywords: Mental Health, Treatment

Title of research

Firefighters accessing care for trauma: A clinical case series testing the efficacy of distance-delivered narrative exposure therapy in reducing PTSD/I symptoms


Currently, in Canada, public safety personnel (PSP) can have difficulties finding accessible and evidence-based mental health services. The study team is working to develop a distance-delivered, evidence-based intervention for PTSI in firefighters who are experiencing symptoms. The development of an intervention is being done in several steps:

  • Adapting an existing treatment called Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET), which was designed to help those who have experienced multiple or ongoing trauma, to be relevant to firefighters.
  • Delivering the adapted NET by video conferencing, which will allow firefighters to participate from the comfort and privacy of their own home. It will also increase access to the intervention.
  • Train professionals to be coaches who will guide firefighters through the intervention. Training will build capacity to help make the intervention readily available.

The catalyst grant has allowed the preliminary testing of the intervention’s effectiveness and practicality. It will also enable the team to determine if the intervention reduces PTSI symptoms (as well as anxiety and depression symptoms and physical complaints) and increases quality of life. The team will also assess if firefighters think the intervention is appealing and accessible.

The team hopes to recruit 25 firefighters to participate in testing the intervention. The program will take ten weeks to complete, and the firefighters will be evaluated through clinical interview on their symptoms and their experience with the intervention.

The team, composed of researchers across the country, is working with an advisory committee of PSP who are helping to ensure the project is relevant for firefighters. This project has the potential to increase access to interventions for firefighters-and eventually, all PSP-and the team is thrilled to have the opportunity to build resources for PSP.

When to expect results

Results are expected by April 2021. For more information about the study or to participate, please contact the primary investigator, Dr. Janine Olthuis (

Research team

Dr. Janine Olthuis, University of New Brunswick; Dr. Patrick McGrath, IWK Health Centre; Dr. Gordon Asmundson, University of Regina; Dr. Nicholas Carleton, University of Regina; Dr. Heidi Cramm, Queen’s University; Dr. Anselm Crombach, Universitat Konstanz; Dr. Julie Devlin, OSI Clinic-Fredericton, NB; Dr. Patricia Lingley-Pottie, Dalhousie University; Dr. Sanjay Rao, Dalhousie University; Dr. Tina Saryeddine, Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs; Dr. Michael Sullivan, McGill University; and Dr. Lori Wozney, IWK Health Centre.

Final Report

Final Knowledge Translation report

Impact of Research

Papers Resulting from this Research

Olthuis JV, Kaltenbach E, Giberson E, Saryeddine T, Asmundson GJG, Carleton RN, Cramm H, Crombach A, Devlin J, Mack J, Lingley-Pottie P, Rao S, Sullivan M, Wozney L, McGrath PJ. Paraprofessional delivery of online narrative exposure therapy for firefighters. J Trauma Stress. 2023 Jun 8. doi:

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