A crisis is an individual’s perception of an event or situation that they experience as difficult and intolerable to the point that it exceeds their current coping mechanisms. It is short-term and immediate psychological care aimed at assisting the person in a crisis situation to restore the equilibrium of their psychosocial functioning and minimize the potential for long-term psychological trauma.
Crisis situations may be caused by the following events:
- Severe physical injuries
- Natural disasters
- Diagnosis of a terminal illness such as Stage IV cancer
- Sudden loss or death of a loved one
- Family violence
- School violence or witnessing a shooting spree at a school
- Specific emotional crises resulting from drastic transitions such as divorce, children leaving home, or pregnancy.
The priority in crisis intervention is to help the person to restore stability by providing an opportunity for change. Crises intervention occurs in a variety of settings and on the spur of the moment as trauma can arise instantaneously. A crisis is temporary, usually with a short span of no longer than a month, although effects may be long-lasting. Crisis intervention has been used to assist millions of vulnerable and at-risk clients to overcome the trauma of a crisis situation and restore them to a pre-crisis level of functioning. Green and his colleagues have found that during a crisis people are particularly open to significant change and therefore clients often achieve a higher level of functioning than before the crisis.
A secondary goal for the general treatment of a crisis situation is to identify and resolve the focal or central issue rather than addressing multiple goals. The worker should take an active part in the process by taking change and providing structure and, if necessary, safety. However, the treatment is not necessarily directive, meaning that the worker does not make decisions for the client on how to live their life.
Crisis intervention is intensive, meaning the relationship between the client and the worker lasts only as long and as frequent as it is necessary to resolve the immediate crisis situation. This will vary depending on the person being treated and may be multiple times within a 24-hour period, five hours one day and maybe only two hours the next.
A crisis can occur on a personal or a societal level. In personal trauma an individual experiences an event or situation in which they perceive to have exhausted their coping skills, power, self-esteem, or social support. These situations may include a person witnessing a suicide or homicide or experiencing threat or personal loss. It is important for workers to primarily assess the safety of themselves and the client, especially when there is a threat of suicide. Social workers usually ask questions pertaining to family and social networks and if necessary provide referrals for long-term care.
On a societal level mass trauma affects a large group of people and occurs in a variety of settings such as terrorist attacks, natural disasters, or school shooting sprees. The primary concern of workers in these situations must be to assess the person’s awareness of their resources. For example, people experiencing trauma on a large scale must be made aware of available shelter, food, and water and access to places where their basic necessities for survival can be met.
1. Prompt Intervention is imperative as victims are at high risk initially for immobilization and maladaptive coping. Resources mobilization in the form of tools needed to return the person to some sort of normalcy must be enacted immediately to enable independent functioning.
2. Facilitating comprehension by processing the trauma in order for the individual to understand what has occurred in order to help them gain a better understanding of what has happened and allowing them to express their feelings about the situation.
3. Problem-solving is necessary for the development of self-reliance and self-efficacy and helps the victim to resolve the issue in the context of their own situation and feelings.
4. A return to normalcy by helping the victim to get back to functioning independently. This is done by facilitating active problem solving, assistance in developing strategies for appropriately addressing concerns, and helping the individual to put those strategies into action. This enables the person in crisis to become self-reliant as soon as possible.