Marilyn Wooley, PhD is the author of How Heroes Heal: Stories of First Responders and the Journey from Posttraumatic Stress Injury to Posttraumatic Growth (WildWooleyPublishers, 2022). Wooley is a police and public safety psychologist and traumatologist who has provided treatment to cops, firefighters, communications dispatchers, medical personnel, other first responders, and veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress injuries for the past forty years. She completed her PhD in 1977 from the University of Arizona and performed her postdoctoral training at the Long Beach Veterans Medical Center treating young veterans injured and traumatized during the Vietnam War. Her experiences spurred her interest in the development and treatment of posttraumatic stress.
Marilyn’s passion became even more deeply rooted when, in 1992, she discovered a trunk filled with her grandfather’s effects from WWII. By exploring hundreds of his letters and photographs, she discovered that her grandfather had served in the 7th Army and was a liberator of Dachau Prison Camp. Suddenly, she realized that her grandfather’s gruesome experiences had left him suffering from untreated posttraumatic stress disorder and her interest in PTSD became an obsession. The diaries illuminated Wooley’s troubled family history and she was struck with fresh clarity how her clients’ individual experiences with posttraumatic stress not only shaped their lives but influenced and shaped the lives of their families and children. Her therapeutic goal of reducing the effects of PTSD eventually led her to devote her energy to helping first responders embark on a journey from posttraumatic stress to recovery to posttraumatic growth that would ultimately reclaim and enrich their lives.
Wooley began private practice in Redding, California in 1979. Over the years she sought opportunities to gain experience in the treatment of posttraumatic stress and related disorders. She became an instructor in Critical Incident Stress Management education and provided services to numerous law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services, government agencies, private companies, and medical facilities.
In her work, she witnessed the positive changes associated with posttraumatic growth in hundreds of first responders. Over time, she recognized a pattern similar to the Hero’s Journey archetype in classic mythology described by Joseph Campbell, and she took classes detailing the Writer’s Journey developed by screen writer/author Chris Vogler. Her conceptualization of the “hero’s story” helped her understand her clients’ struggles. When she began to share this story with the first responders she treated, they began to see their recovery as an adventure, not the one they experience in their daily life, but a journey inside, both terrifying and inspirational. posttraumatic growth, when described as a series of challenges, becomes normalized and helps the first responder negotiate the path to recovery in a more understandable way.
Wooley has published articles in professional journals and presented papers at conferences describing critical incidents, including her own, and the coping/recovery process. She is an expert witness in several areas relating to trauma. She volunteered for the American Red Cross to help victims of 9/11. She has also volunteered as a clinician for the West Coast Posttrauma Retreat since 2001 and served on the board of the First Responders Support Network.
Writing about public safety is not Wooley’s only genre. She won the 2000 St. Martin’s Press Malice Domestic award for Jackpot Justice, a novel about psychologist Cassie Ringwald who lives amid colorful characters and solves mysteries to save the lives of her clients.
Wooley lives in rural Northern California with her husband and clowder of shameless cats. She enjoys an adrenaline rush and has survived skydiving over power lines, flying a small plane crippled by engine icing, scuba diving with sharks, kayaking 100 miles on Idaho’s wild River of No Return, and belly dancing on stage. She also tends to her rose garden and attends opera whenever she can. She is hooked on murder mysteries and world travel.

Other Works