What Is A Crisis Intervention?

A crisis intervention is an immediate and short-term emergency response to mental, emotional, physical, and behavioral distress. Crisis interventions help to restore an individual’s equilibrium to their biopsychosocial functioning and minimize the potential for long-term trauma or distress.

Many crisis interventions are conducted by certified crisis intervention counselors at hospitals, clinics, social services, drug rehab centers, or an individual’s home. Crisis counseling is not intended to provide psychotherapy or similar treatment, but offers a short-term intervention to help clients receive assistance, resources, stabilization, and support.

What Is A Crisis Situation?

A crisis can refer to trauma, a natural disaster, mental illness, medical illness, victimization, grief, or relationship changes. A crisis can be difficult for anybody to cope with, and many times crises are recurring situations for an individual suffering from mental illness or a substance use disorder.

“Almost one in 10 individuals discharged from a state psychiatric hospital will be readmitted within 30 days; more than one in five will be readmitted within 180 days,” (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). For many people, the ability to handle change is something that is learned over time, and recurring crises can make this more difficult.

A crisis may cause a person to lose their ability to cope with stress, trauma, grief, guilt, shame, or any other dilemma causing them to lose their mental balance, or even relapse back into substance abuse.

A person’s inability to cope with crisis may present itself with the following signs:

  • hopelessness
  • poor concentration
  • irritability
  • conflicts with others
  • avoiding social situations
  • anger
  • grief
  • denial
  • difficulty eating or sleeping
  • abusing alcohol and/or other drugs
  • apathy
  • depression
  • anxiety

For the most part, both crisis and crisis interventions occur without notice. Conducting a crisis intervention assessment as quickly as possible may be necessary to help a person regain a sense of control and balance in their life.

Assessment Of A Crisis Situation

The first stage of a crisis intervention is the assessment stage, during which time an individual is assessed for how a crisis has affected them or their mental state. A crisis assessment takes the form of an interview, which allows a counselor to become familiar with a patient’s history of past crises, frequency of them, and how they have affected the individual’s emotional or mental state.

There are three types of assessment that need to be conducted in a crisis situation. The first step of a crisis assessment is the triage assessment, in which a patient’s condition and appropriate treatment approach are evaluated.

The second appropriate step is crisis assessment, in which general information regarding an individual’s crisis experience is collected. The third and final area is a social and cultural assessment which uses systematic tools to measure an individual’s level of stress, problem, situation, and severity of the crisis episode.

Crisis Intervention Procedures

There are numerous crisis intervention procedures, all of which aim to restore stabilization in people who have been affected by a crisis. A person dealing with a crisis may be severely depressed, and even suicidal, so having these procedures in place helps to ensure the best and fastest care possible.

The Seven-Stage Crisis Intervention Model, SAFER-R Model, and The 10 Stages of Acute Traumatic Stress Management (ATSM) create one comprehensive model that can be utilized in nearly all crisis situations.

The Seven-Stage Crisis Intervention Model

Also known as the Assessment, Crisis, Intervention, Trauma, Treatment (ACT) Model, The Seven-Stage Crisis Intervention Model is designed to be followed as a guide to resolving crisis situations, and returning things to the way they were before the crisis occured.

The seven stages of the ACT Model are listed below:

  1. Plan and conduct a thorough biopsychological and lethality/imminent danger assessment
  2. Make psychological contract and rapidly establish the collaborative relationship
  3. Identify the major problems, including what precipitated the crisis
  4. Encourage an exploration of feelings and emotions
  5. Generate and explore alternatives and new coping strategies
  6. Restore functioning through implementation of an action plan
  7. Plan for follow-up and booster sessions

The SAFER-R Intervention Model

The SAFER-R Model is a popular treatment approach for effectively handling a crisis situation. Treatment in this approach follows a simple guide to returning an individual back to functioning similar to before the state of crisis.

The SAFER-R Model includes the following six stages:

  1. Stabilize
  2. Acknowledge
  3. Facilitate understanding
  4. Encourage adaptive coping
  5. Restore functioning
  6. Refer

The 10 Stages of Acute Traumatic Stress Management (ATSM)

The 10 Stages of Acute Traumatic Stress Management is a comprehensive list of steps to restoring balance and mental stability in an individual suffering from crisis trauma.

The 10 stages of ATSM include:

  1. Assess for danger/safety for self and others
  2. Consider the mechanism of injury
  3. Evaluate the level of responsiveness
  4. Address medical needs
  5. Observe and identify
  6. Connect with the individual
  7. Ground the individual
  8. Provide support
  9. Normalize the response
  10. Prepare for the future

Crisis Intervention And Substance Use Disorders

A person who experiences a crisis may use alcohol as a sense of escape, or to deal with the debilitating stress of dealing with a crisis. Many people develop a substance use disorder in response to the emotional, mental, and physical distress of a crisis.

A person suffering from a substance use disorder (SUD) may reach a point in their drinking or drug use which causes serious harm to themselves or the people around them, making intervention necessary. A co-occurring disorder is the existence of both mental and substance use disorders, which may present difficulties in coping with crisis as well.

A crisis intervention is most commonly used for treating trauma and other mental health issues, but many people suffering from substance abuse will relapse as a result of a crisis situation.

Many people who use an excessive amount of drugs to cope with a crisis aren’t yet dependent on the drug, so it’s important to intervene as quickly as possible. A crisis intervention may help an individual learn healthy coping techniques to replace alcohol or other drugs before abuse of them becomes a bigger issue.

Crisis Intervention Professionals

A crisis intervention may involve a wide range of professionals, including psychiatrists, counselors, psychologists, police officers, firefighters, emergency medical staff, nurses, doctors, and communications personnel.

Certified crisis intervention counselors work to help patients suffering from mental illness or emotional disorder restore stability and navigate through intense feelings brought on by an unexpected change in their lives.

Crisis intervention sessions range from 20 minutes to several hours long. The duration of crisis treatment can be anywhere from one session to several weeks, depending on the severity of the crisis, and/or the individual’s state of mental health.

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