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What is a Crisis Intervention?

When someone is experiencing a crisis, they often see no end in sight to their struggles or suffering. The emotional turmoil that comes with a crisis can be so devastating that it can drive someone to addiction, depression, and suicide. Crisis intervention is a powerful tool family member, friends, and partners can use to help their loved ones. 

What’s a Crisis Intervention?

In a nutshell, crisis intervention is an immediate emergency response to mental, emotional, behavioral, and physical distress. The idea is to help restore someone’s biopsychosocial balance and minimize long-term trauma or distress.  Hospitals, clinics, social services, and drug rehab centers often provide crisis intervention. However, family members or partners can do the same at home. It’s important to understand that crisis intervention is no substitute for long-term treatment. Instead, it’s meant to offer a quick response to help someone seek assistance, stabilization, and support for their crisis. 

Recognizing a Crisis Situation?

Crisis can be many things, including trauma, mental illness, medical illness, grief, relationship change, or victimization. These are all things people can have difficulty coping with, so many resources use substances or other unhealthy coping mechanisms to survive.  According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), almost one in 10 individuals leaving a psychiatric hospital return within 30 days.  The first step of crisis intervention is the assessment stage. An assessment often looks like an interview, which allows whoever is performing the examination to become familiar with the patient’s history of crisis and how they affected the individual. The second step is about understanding how the individual’s crisis experience was managed in the past. The third and final step is to explore the social and cultural context of someone’s crisis. The idea is to understand the level of stress, problem, the severity of the crisis episode, and how the situation was handled. 

How to Execute a Crisis Intervention

After the crisis assessment, it’s time to consider the type of crisis intervention procedure that will best help a person. Not all crisis interventions will be successful, so it’s essential to understand the options available to help someone.

The Seven-Stage Crisis Intervention Model

One of the most common crisis intervention models is the Assessment, Crisis, Intervention, Trauma, Treatment (ACT) Model. This model aims to guide someone in resolving crises with the hope of returning things to the way they were before the crisis occurred. The seven steps of this model are:

  1. Plan and complete a thorough imminent danger assessment
  2. Establish a collaborative relationship with the patient or other professionals
  3. Identify the major problems
  4. Encourage exploration of feelings and emotions
  5. Explore alternatives and new coping strategies
  6. Implement an action plan
  7. Plan a follow-up

The SAFER-R Crisis Intervention Model

A simple and popular model for effectively handling a crisis. The goal is to return an individual to functioning similarly or better than before the state of crisis.  The six steps of this model are:

  1. Stabilization
  2. Acknowledgment
  3. Understanding the situation
  4. Adaptive coping
  5. Restore functioning
  6. Refer to a professional

The Acute Traumatic Stress Management (ATSM)

A bit more comprehensive than other interventions, but the ATSM can help restore mental stability, particularly among those suffering from crisis trauma The ten steps of this model are:

  1. Assess for danger and safety of the individual and others
  2. Consider the different mechanisms of injury
  3. Evaluate the level of responsiveness
  4. Address any medical needs
  5. Observe and identify initial reactions
  6. Connect with the individual
  7. Ground the individual
  8. Provide support and assistance
  9. Normalize the response
  10. Prepare for the future with a professional

Do Crisis Interventions Work for Substance Use Disorders?

When helping a loved one struggling with addiction, interventions are often the first approach. Someone experiencing a crisis can easily turn to alcohol or drugs as a sense of escape and uses it as a coping mechanism to deal with this crisis. So many individuals with addiction have an underlying emotional, mental, and physical turmoil they have not treated.  Whether they’re struggling with co-occurring mental illness or polysubstance abuse, they’re likely having difficulties coping with the crisis.  Crisis intervention is often used as a first step in helping someone seek treatment for their addiction. Crisis intervention can shift someone’s mentality about using substances to cope with their struggles. Unlike traditional crisis interventions, there are many more strategies for a successful intervention when addiction is present. 


Where Can I Find Help?

Anyone can attempt to set up a crisis intervention. However, it’s best to recruit the help of professionals. Usually, psychiatrists, counselors, psychologists, law enforcement, emergency medical staff, and communications personnel can assist crisis intervention.  A certified intervention counselor can help families of those with substance use disorder or mental illness. It can be additional challenging to try these interventions without professional help because most people don’t understand these conditions’ underlying triggers during a crisis.  Overall, most interventions range from 20 minutes to several hours long, depending on the type of crisis and the method used. In the end, the goal of an intervention is to trigger a follow-up action, which in most cases means seeking treatment for the unhealed trauma.  At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we help many families stage interventions to help a loved one seek the help they need to beat their addiction. We also coach and guide families to navigate the recovery journey and find the support they need to overcome this challenging situation. Call 866-308-2090 today and speak to an intervention specialist to get help. 

About Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Programs

Now, communities have what’s known as a crisis intervention team (CIT) program. These are community-based teams to improve the encounters of law enforcement agents and crisis episodes. This program aims to give police offers more tools to do their jobs safely and effectively.  Still, there’s a lot of work to be done, and these programs are at least a first step in reducing catastrophic police responses to a crisis episode. However, so far, in communities with CIT training, there was an 80% reduction of police officer injuries during mental health crisis calls. Of course, we all know that this isn’t the case in most calls. Hopefully, these programs will continue to develop and help those in desperate need of help.  

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