What about a crisis?

There are times when we hit a crisis or, indeed, one crisis after another. At these times when we might need help, therapy might not such a good idea.

Therapy, to be effective, requires some stability and a few moments within which we can reflect. It needs us to do small safe experiments and have time to collect the results.

When I am in crisis, I am not very well equipped to do some of these things. There are urgent things to do and safety may well feel a long way away.

This is perverse, is it not? At a time when I may most need help, the service of well trained therapists, able to listen and guide, seems not suitable!

Good news is: helping others in a crisis is only about good people doing something. Great expertise and insights into the human condition are not required.

So what can us ordinary folk do when a pal finds themselves in trouble?

BE there

BE practical …………..

BUT listening may be more helpful than fixing.

BE a temporary anchor. A reliable, sensible and available person – a ”port in a storm’. Notice, if you would, how it easy for ‘temporary’ to become ‘permanent.’

ATTEND to what your pal is doing to take care of themselves. Make sure they can see some of those things for themselves.

Find ways to see things done day by day, and one after the other, so they can take even better care of themselves or others in their world.

Find ways to sort out the URGENT, the IMPORTANT and sort it from the URGENT AND IMPORTANT.

THAT MAY BE ENOUGH, but here are a few other thoughts, if you have the time to look them over.

Some of the goals used in crisis intervention are:

  • To mitigate the impact of event.
  • To promote early recovery from crisis.
  • To restore our adaptive abilities.
  • To restore our day-to-day functioning.

Crisis intervention techniques may be better following seven principles:

Simplicity: In a crisis, I respond best to simple procedures. Simple things have the best chance of having a positive effect on me. It is not that I am ‘simple’ but my abilities to change are impaired in a crisis. That said, it is a time when we can find the necessary energy to focus on desired change.

Brevity: Psychological first aid needs to be available for short periods, from minutes up to one hour in most cases.

Innovation: Use creativity; there are no specific instructions for every case or circumstance.

Pragmatism: Keep it practical; impractical suggestions can foster even more frustration and the feeling that things are even more out of control.

Proximity: effective support services close by can promote a better sense of safety.

Immediacy: Crises demand rapid interaction so acting quickly is needed – even so, it is possible for too much haste can generate too little speed and delay the effectiveness of any support services.

Expectancy: Set up expectations of a reasonable positive outcome and a sense of hope – the situation is manageable. There are do-able things to explore.

and then a follow-up: what are the:

  • changed physical conditions – accommodation, work and important relationships.
  • changes in the understanding of the precipitating event, if any.
  • any continuing stressors and how those are being handled.
  • considerations for longer term support, including therapy.

Return to:


What is a nudge

How to design a safe experiment

Not really an experiment is it?

Crisis and anxiety