Crisis Intervention is a term that has been batted around for a few years, and has acquired a couple of different meanings in the process. It is a major theme of critical incident stress management (cism) which has been around since World War One, and more recently, used to describe dealing with the mentally ill during especially difficult episodes. When speaking of crisis intervention, I am referring to the CISM version.
Crisis Intervention is taking action to help someone (or a group of people) who has been emotionally overwhelmed by a traumatic event or series of stressful events. This intervention is not a complex or complicated system that can be administered only by highly trained professionals, but is a series of actions that can be learned and applied by almost any caring adult. The goal is not to analyze the person or attempt to diagnose some behavioral flaw, but to simply assist the individual in overcoming the emotional flood that has them temporarily unsettled.
The word crisis means different things to different folks. In CISM, a crisis is NOT an event, but it is a response to an event. Bad things that happen are called critical incidents. Whenever a critical incident causes a person to be upset to the point that his or her emotions threaten to overwhelm them, then this is a crisis. Helping a person in this state of mind is what Crisis Intervention is all about.
Crisis Intervention is the second layer of properly applied critical incident stress management – sandwiched between Crisis Prevention and Crisis Postvention.
Crisis Prevention is accomplished by education and training and by limiting exposure to risk. Teaching people how their bodies will react to stress and how to counter those symptoms prepares them to cope with the stress if a disaster occurs. Putting a crisis management plan in place before trouble arises creates an expectation of survival.
Crisis Intervention begins when a critical incident has occurred and the crisis management plan must be implemented. The intervention team is constantly surveying and assessing the situation to determine if their services are needed and, if so, how they should be applied. Not every critical incident will result in people being in crisis so the intervention portion of CISM or of the crisis management plan may not be employed. If this is the case, the intervention team will continue to follow the crisis management plan to the next step.
Postvention is the work that is done following an incident or crisis. This work includes portions of the Crisis Prevention steps and serves to provide both healing and hope to those effected.
Crisis Intervention has been around as long as humans have had to endure tough times. Being conscience of its power, and being skilled in correctly applying it, is one of the best gifts a person can give to his fellow man.