Heartland Human Services

Crisis Intervention = Distress Relief

By Lisa Ballinger, LCPC, Therapist

Crisis intervention consists of immediate, short-term assistance to those who experience an event that produces mental, emotional, physical and/or behavioral distress.  A crisis can consist of any situation where an individual perceives a sudden loss of their ability to effectively cope or problem-solve.  There are numerous types of events that can sometimes trigger a crisis situation.  Below are a few scenarios that are commonly seen in a crisis setting:

-life threatening situations such as those faced while serving in the military
-natural disasters such as a tornado or earthquake
-debilitating medical illness, unplanned pregnancy, advancing dementia
-criminal acts such as sexual assault or domestic violence
-parent/child relationship problems, bullying
-mental illness including suicidal thoughts, homicidal thoughts or psychosis
-sudden change in financial status including job loss and homelessness
-a sudden loss or change in relationship such as break-ups, divorce, death of a loved one, or death of a cherished pet
-substance abuse

The primary purpose of crisis intervention is to return individuals to their level of functioning prior to the current crisis.  In addition, functioning levels can be improved by eliminating ineffective means of coping and developing new positive coping skills designed to improve their response to future difficulties.  An important part of crisis intervention also involves linking individuals to needed services and supports.

Crisis intervention can be conducted in a variety of settings including, but not limited to, mental health and substance abuse treatment clinics, hospital emergency rooms, schools, correctional facilities or other social service agencies.  In addition, crisis intervention can be conducted via phone through the use of 24-hour hotlines.  The length of crisis intervention varies depending upon the age and abilities of the person experiencing the crisis and the severity of their distress.

Crisis intervention begins with an assessment of an individual’s presenting problem that includes a determination of any safety concerns that may need addressed.  Assessment should also include an evaluation of a person’s strengths, current coping mechanisms, positive or negative, and whether they have a network of support available through family or friends.
A crisis clinician will then assist the individual in exploring possible solutions to their presenting issue and devising a plan for addressing their concerns.  Education, brief therapy, safety planning, referral and/or follow-up are often utilized.

Although stressful situations and crisis response are sometimes a part of life, professional help is available by contacting Heartland Human Services’ 24-hour Crisis Line at 217-342-5504.
Source: Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders