How and When Counselors Use Crisis Intervention

How and When Counselors Use Crisis Intervention

Nearly 70% of adults, or about 233.4 million people in the USA, have experienced some form of trauma at least once in their lives. The emotional response to trauma can negatively impact a person’s quality of life, causing sleep disorders, panic attacks, dissociation, low self-esteem, self-harm, substance abuse, and other issues. Crisis intervention is one of the most effective treatments mental health practitioners use to help prevent acute traumatic stress reactions from developing into chronic stress disorders. The treatment focuses on helping individuals minimize the stress of a traumatic event, improve their coping strategies and prevent the traumatic event from having a long-term impact on a patient’s life. This blog focuses on the benefits of crisis intervention treatment and how it is applied.

What is crisis intervention?

Crisis intervention is specialized counseling designed to assist individuals with coping and support after a major crisis. It is a brief and time-limited treatment geared towards helping victims achieve stability and enhance their internal sense of empowerment and safety. The counseling duration may range from 15 minutes to 2 hours within 1 to 3 seasoned programs. While these programs do differ in their approach, most crisis intervention strategies involve the following steps:

Step 1: Define the problem

The first step in the crisis counseling process is to determine the exact problem that the client is facing. This phase of the process helps establish a connection between the counselor and the client in a bid to determine the exact problem affecting the individual. The crisis worker should implement active listening and empathy to fully understand the situation and establish a bond with the client. In a nutshell, the counselor must look at the issue from the client’s point of view, to understand the problem and treat it effectively.

Step 2: Ensure client safety

An integral part of a crisis intervention plan is ensuring individuals cannot harm themselves or others. During this phase, the counselor conducts homicide risk assessments and suicide risk assessments. They may evaluate factors such as agitation, violence, and the client’s potential to harm themselves. The counselor should also control the person’s access to dangerous items such as firearms or knives.

Step 3: Provide support

In the third step, the crisis worker must show the client they accept and care for them. The counselor can express emotional support through statements illustrating their empathy, trust, and care. They can also show instrumental support by offering services and aid such as shelter and food. Finally, the crisis worker can offer informational support through advice and suggestions, including teaching the individual about healthy coping strategies.

Step 4: Explore alternatives

At this stage, the crisis worker works with the client in searching for better effective solutions. Since the client’s coping skills are suspended in a time of distress, they will likely need support finding alternative treatments. This is where the crisis worker offers more assistance through situational support, coping mechanisms, and positive and constructive thinking patterns.

Step 5: Making plans

With the client’s safety and basic needs well taken care of, the crisis worker can now focus on establishing a solid plan to help the individual restore control of their life. The plan must be realistic and achievable while helping the client feel and take ownership of the recovery process.

Step 6: Obtain commitment

The last step is to obtain a commitment from the client. This can be as simple as getting the client to verbalize the plan or as elaborate as drafting a document and having both parties sign it. During this stage, the crisis worker must confirm that the client understands all aspects of the plan and the need to implement it fully. To create a sense of accountability, the counselor should follow up with the client.

When should counselors use crisis intervention?

Crisis intervention is recommended under several circumstances, including:

  • Suicidal intervention: Nearly 12.3 million Americans had suicidal thoughts in 2021. A crisis counselor working in suicide intervention assesses an individual’s thoughts and feelings and refers to appropriate resources, including coping skills, or calls paramedics if need be.
  • Acts of terror: Mass shootings and acts of violence are a continuing problem in the United States. The aftermath of such events can leave those caught up in these acts with various mental health problems. Crisis intervention can help offer immediate relief for those affected by mass acts of violence.
  • Domestic violence victims: Crisis intervention treatment provides confidential support, resources, referrals, and safety planning for domestic violence victims. Crisis counselors can offer resources and support to help victims who wish to leave violent relationships create effective safety plans.
  • Assisting sexual assault victims: Sexual assault can trigger difficult reactions of anxiety, depression, confusion, and anger. Crisis intervention can help victims process their feelings and find appropriate resources for recovery.  

Is crisis intervention the same as psychotherapy?

Like psychotherapy, crisis counseling encompasses assessment, planning, and treatment. Crisis intervention, however, is much more specific. Psychotherapy is broad in its approach and treats the client based on their full medical history. In contrast, crisis intervention focuses on the client’s immediate situation, caring for their urgent needs, with a particular focus on their safety.

Where do crisis counselors work?

Crisis counselors work in a variety of settings, such as mental health clinics, telephone crisis conseling centers, humanitarian aid organizations and private practices.

What does it take to become a crisis counselor?

To obtain a crisis counseling license, one must complete a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field such as psychology, human services, social work, or behavioral science. Specifically, enrolling in an online master’s degree in mental health counseling can be a smart way to develop the skills and technical knowledge needed to work in crisis counseling. The counseling program at American International College offers an integrated curriculum, flexible enrollment options, and no campus travel, making it an ideal choice for working professionals.

Key takeaways

Crisis intervention provides meaningful advice and guidance to individuals dealing with recent traumatic events. It supports clients who may feel overwhelmed, confused, or unsure soon after facing a traumatic event. Crisis counselors guide a person in crisis away from dangerous actions and toward their pre-crisis state. Ultimately, their key role is ensuring a person’s safety.