Who We Are
Sue Johnston, LICSW has been providing support to helping professionals for over 22 years. She was a founding member of a local hospital peer support team; served as the Clinical Director of The Metro CISM Team (www.metrocism.org) which responds to critical incidents in the fire, law enforcement, EMS, and emergency dispatch services; and works with area hospitals and organ-procurement organizations as a special consultant in resiliency. Sue has been training and providing clinical consultation to peer support teams for the past 15 years. She is an International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF) approved instructor.
Sue has coordinated stress support services for a number of large scale incidents, including Hurricane Katrina, the 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis, tornadoes, officer involved shootings, and death-in-service incidents.
She has worked as a psychotherapist for 30 years, specializing in treating anxiety and PTSD. She is trained in EMDR, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, Somatic Experiencing, ART, hypnosis, and HeartMath. Sue served a 9-month mission in Myanmar (Burma) for Doctors Without Borders, providing support and training to medical staff responding to government-ethnic group armed conflict.
I am passionate about helping the helper. If we ask people to do the hard work of taking care of society’s needs – be it through emergency services, the medical or mental health professions, nonprofits, or humanitarian aid – we must support them. I am also passionate about training CISM and peer teams to effectively help the helpers. Maintaining and improving intervention skills should be a regular practice for these teams in order to develop ‘muscle memory’ of the intervention procedures. Without such practice, the result is the commonly seen problems for which CISM is criticized. As a trauma treatment specialist I have learned the tricks of the trade to keep crisis interventions specific and effective.
Kathy Abram, M.A., Sgt. Dakota County SO (Ret.) has been involved in CISM since 2007. She retired from law enforcement after 25 years as a dispatcher, jailer, patrol officer, detective, and watch commander. After becoming an International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF) certified instructor, Kathy has worked with Sue to train and update training for teams with widely varied backgrounds. She has participated in hundreds of CISM interventions for both first responders and for the general public (usually involving work related deaths or critical incidents such as robberies). She has also taught psychology courses at several metro area colleges and universities. Currently, her greatest CISM focus is on interventions involving OIS (Officer Involved Shootings) and how best to help those officers, their co-workers, and their families.
There were no helpful interventions when I was in law enforcement. It was, ‘Buck up and get over it’, which is not a healthy attitude in critical incidents. After my first few debriefing interventions, I was hooked on the way in which I could help first responders and the public normalize what had happened to them, and help them move on. I am incredibly motivated to help keep first responders mentally healthy for their careers, their families, and their communities. The ‘job’ should never get in the way of life off-duty.
Critical Incident Stress Consultants also utilizes a small number of subcontracted service providers.