If you are in a crisis, Jeffrey Hosick is the man you want at your side.
For over 30 years, the Kentville resident has been literally and figuratively fighting fires everywhere.
When he was a small, growing up in Toronto, he was teased by his older sister that his raincoat made him look like a firefighter. To add to the look, Hosick says his parents had a friend’s Toronto firefighter cap, which he kept with him throughout his childhood.
It’s no wonder he ended up in the fire service, but not necessarily in the role that most would suspect.
Hosick always wanted to be a mechanical engineer, because he loved knowing how things worked. After high school, he applied to both Bible college for theology and to McMaster for mechanical engineering.
“Little did I know then, I was heading on a pathway where I would do both, just not how physical things worked, but how emotions, thoughts, spirituality, religion, and groups work,” he says.
Although he didn’t set out to become a pastor, Hosick did want to experience everything he could, and being in the religious community, it allowed him such opportunities.
After becoming ordained as a Baptist minister and serving as a pastor for a few years in New Brunswick, Hosick began hearing tragic stories from people of how they were sexually abused. This was in the mid- to late-1980s, long before it had much public attention, he says.
At the same time, Hosick was volunteering in a local prison.
“I have always been fascinated by what works and what doesn’t work, and in prison, it was clear when things didn’t work.”
These experiences inspired Hosick to return to school to do a master’s degree in pastoral care and counselling, and was recruited to help pioneer a new sex offender program in the Westmorland Institution in Dorchester, New Brunswick.
“During that time, we treated the Catholic priests from Newfoundland, including the Christian Brothers from Mt. Cashel,” he says.
This inspired him to write his thesis on religious addiction, focusing on how, when, where, and why people use religion to revel in their good side and become blind to their darkness.
From that point, throughout his preaching career, Hosick had people approach him wanting to talk either about their abuse as children, or their current sexuality issues. Seeing the need, he set out to blend both a private counselling practice with the role of a pastor, who could preach about brokenness and grace while being paid by the counselling practice in exchange for rent. This is what he sought to do next by completing a Ph.D. in diversified counselling.
Hosick hasn’t been bored in his first 30 years of counselling, as his practice is definitely diversified. He tends to focus on spirituality, personal development, marriage and family successes and failures, crisis intervention, grief, abuse, trauma, good and evil, sanity and insanity, anxiety, depression, adrenaline, numbing out, communication and drama.
“As the good book says, we are fearfully and wonderfully made,” he says.
WORK WITH FIREFIGHTERS
His main specialty is crisis management, and a lot of work he does is with PTSD and first responders, including firefighters.
The fire service, he says, provides amazing analogies of how we deal with toxic fumes, toxic waste and crisis management. There are similarities between extinguishing a fire and solving an emotional crisis. The difference, however, is the fire service likes to take action while the counselling service likes to talk and reflect, and there is often a wide gap between the two.
Now as a chaplain for the fire department, Hosick has too often heard from firefighters about the pain of talking to a counsellor who is too stressed to listen and that firefighters never get the opportunity to discuss what they have come to talk about.
To help first responders deal with PTSD, Hosick has developed a free e-course called The Way Out of Flashbacks.
“I also began to think about the sheriffs in the court room, the transcriptionist who must type up witnesses’ testimonies, all who suffer from flashbacks but aren’t even aware of what is happening,” he said.
The aim of the course is to deal with these flashbacks.
According to Hosick, there are three kinds of flashbacks, and several sets of triggers to go with each type.
“Sometimes, the experiences are so troubling, though, and we are so perplexed because the resources we had at the time the event happened were inadequate, and when we return to the experience we start where we left off, feeling just as inadequate as we did then. That scares us, so we avoid it,” he says.
The general program is divided into two parts, the free part and the full part, he explains. In fire department language, the free part is equivalent to an exterior attack.
“We safely stand outside and note what is happening and we manage the fire,” he said. “The full part is the equivalent of what we call in the fire service as an interior attack, meaning going inside to find the fire and extinguish it at its source.”
In either case, Hosick asks participants to register so he knows if they are OK, so he can be professionally responsible.
“If I introduce someone to overwhelming material, I better have their back and, just like a good accountability officer, keep track of where they are, and if they are OK,” he explains.
COMPASSION AND CONTRIBUTION
Related to his work with the fire service, Hosick has worked the past six years with search and rescue, staring as a member of the Critical Incident Stress Team of the Fire Services Association of Nova Scotia to Valley Search and Rescue.
When he started, the group was dealing with a particularly difficult call recovering the body of a suicide victim. Again, he was touched by stories of flashbacks, and realized many rescuers had scenes tattooed on their brain.
“I felt compassion for them, and saw how I could contribute,” he says.
Hosick says his role with search and rescue is both a communications expert and a chaplain. He frequently stays on the command bus and is situated close to family members whose loved one they are looking for, he says.
When Hosick is not helping people, he can be found on the open road on his motorcycle, and as a member of the Raging Knights motorcycle club, he travels 15,000 to 17,000 kilometres every summer. He also likes to kick up his heels with the Valley Scottish Country Dancers.
Instead of thinking about retirement, Hosick is staring a second PhD program in industrial organizational psychology to further understand how people function in organizations. In particular, he’s interested in volunteer fire departments and how they function.
“I have witnessed the decay of morale and mental health amongst the rank and file. I wonder what happens to the whole station when a leader has PTSD but will not stop going to calls,” he says.
He is enjoying refocusing his journey from being based in Nova Scotia to the internet, connecting with people all over the world and learning a whole new skillset from designing and delivering e-courses, to facilitating webinars, speaking professionally.
“I often describe myself this way,” he says. “Have you heard of Dr. Phil? Well, I am Dr. Back-fill!”
GO ONLINE: Learn more at https://creative-management-solutions.teachable.com/