Running head: ISSUES IN COMMUNITY COUNSELING Issues in Community Crisis CounselingOluwakemi AmolaNorth Carolina Central University Abstract Crisis counseling is a time-limited program designed to assist persons affected by trauma, return to their pre-trauma level of functioning. Crisis counselors utilize several techniques to perform these services. This paper offers a clearer understanding of the crisis counseling field and the counselors who conduct it. In the past twenty years, crisis counseling has evolved into relatively short-term intervention with individuals and groups experiencing psychological trauma due to a traumatic experience.

This type of intervention involves classic counseling goals such as: assisting people in understanding their current situation and reactions, assisting in review of options, providing emotional support, and encouraging linkage with other individuals and agencies that may assist the individual (Brock & Lewis, 2001). The aim of the assistance is to help people deal with the current situation in which they may find themselves. It draws upon the assumption that the individual is capable of resuming a productive and fulfilling life following a traumatic experience if given support, assistance, and information at a time and in a manner appropriate to his or her experience, education, developmental stage, and ethnicity (Everly & Flannerly, 1999). The object of most crisis counseling programs is to help people recognize that their emotional reactions are normal, grieve their losses, and to develop coping skills that will allow them to resume their pre-trauma level of functioning. Development of enhanced coping mechanisms and skills are the desired long-term outcomes (Everly & Flannerly, 1999). Description of Crisis Counseling Traditionally, crisis counseling is short-term; it is usually no more than 1 to 3 months.

The focus is on a single or recurrent problem that is overwhelming or traumatic. Crisis counseling provides education, guidance, and support ( (Federal Emergency, 2003). It differs from traditional mental health practices in many ways. Traditional mental health practices are primarily office based and focus on diagnosis and treatment of a mental illness. It examines content and tries to affect the baseline of personality and functioning. Traditional mental health practices also have a psychotherapeutic focus and it encourages insight into past life experiences and their influence on current problems (Slaikeu, 1990).

In contrast, crisis counseling is primarily home and community based with a focus on assessment of strengths, adaptation of existing coping skills, and the development of new ones. It seeks to restore people to pre-trauma levels of functioning and accepts content at face value. Crisis counseling has a psycho-educational focus, and it strives to validate the appropriateness of reactions to a traumatic event (McCormick & Poland, 2000). There are many different definitions and descriptions of crisis counseling, regardless of the theory, there are five universal elements that a counselor can utilize to help people face and move past distressing and traumatic events in their lives.

5 Elements of Crisis Intervention Education Most people have a natural ability to recover from a crisis provided they have the support, guidance, and resources they need. In most cases, a crisis involves normal reactions, to an abnormal situation (Bemak, Carpenter, & Keys, 1999). Confrontation through information and discussion may be an important part of crisis intervention (Federal Emergency, 2003). Effective crisis counseling provides information, activities, and structure that help clients recover and move past the crisis.

Creating a safe place The most important aspect of crisis counseling is to provide a space that will allow clients to express, explore, examine, and become active in ways that help insure the crisis is not prolonged (New York State, 2003). For each client, there are activities and routines that during times of distress provide comfort and support. It is the counselor's role to help the client recognize and engage in these activities. Irrational beliefs and unrealistic expectations Few people, during times of crisis, have the necessary skills to examine what they are thinking, what they assume, and what they expect from their self and from others. Client's thoughts contribute a great deal in how they feel and what they do in response to those feelings (Federal Emergency, 2003). Effective crisis counseling helps clients to recognize and restructure their irrational beliefs and unrealistic expectations.

Breaking vicious cycles Many crises are the result of vicious cycles or addictions. A painful crisis can lead a person to avoid and escape how they feel. Unhealthy escape and avoidance of emotional pain and distress may involve the use of medication, drugs, alcohol, thrill seeking, or working excessively (McCormick & Poland, 2000). Vicious cycles often start with behaviors that are intended to avoid or escape emotional pain, but ultimately these avoidance and escape behaviors create more problems. The behaviors found in a vicious cycle can actually prolong a crisis (Allen, Burt, Carter, & Orsi, 2003). An effective crisis counseling program is aware of this phenomenon and works to prevent a client from falling into a vicious cycle, or help a client out of a vicious cycle.

Facing fear and emotional pain A crisis is usually a time of fear or sadness. How one responds is important. Facing emotional pain and fear is the healthiest response. When a client is suffering, it is important to help them feel less alone in the world (Allen et al., 2003). It is important for the counselor to empower and support the client in crisis in recognizing and resolving their emotional fears and pain. Who conducts crisis counseling The field of crisis counseling consists of professionals, paraprofessionals, and resident workers.

All are trained in the basics of mental health and crisis counseling. Professionals Professionals traditionally have a master's level or higher degree in psychology, social work, counseling, or psychiatric nursing. They have experience in the mental health or counseling field and the experience and expertise to provide clinical supervision and training to crisis counselors (New York State, 2003). Typically, a professional coordinates and supervises the local outreach team for crisis counseling programming.

In addition, the professional may provide crisis counseling services directly or offer consultation and support to crisis counselors who are working with people whose situations are complex or difficult (Brock & Lewis, 2001). They may evaluate clients to determine if their needs exceed the scope of the crisis counseling programs or they may work directly with individuals, families and groups whose problems are unusually challenging or complex (New York State, 2003). Professionals have an in-depth understanding about the normal human response to crisis and the techniques for helping clients integrate those experiences so that they return to their pre-crisis level of functioning. Paraprofessional Paraprofessional counselors have a bachelor's degree or less in a specialty, which may or may not be related to counseling. They have strong intuitive skills about people or relate well to others (New York State, 2003). Paraprofessionals will do crisis counseling, education, provide information and referral services, and work with individuals, families and groups.

Successful crisis counseling programs train paraprofessionals regarding the human response to disaster and methods for working with people who are in a crisis (Federal Emergency, 2003). Additional training may cover cultural competency, ethical conduct, the role of the crisis counselor, and techniques for introducing oneself, introducing the program, and helping people understand their crisis experience (New York State, 2003). Resident Worker Resident workers are crisis counselors who come from within the local community, cultural or ethnic group that is targeted for crisis counseling services. They are members of, familiar to and recognized by their communities.

They may be mental health professionals already working in the community (Slaikeu, 1990). Other examples of native workers include retired persons, students, active community volunteers, etc. Native workers may or may not have formal training in counseling or related professions; they may be paraprofessionals or professionals. Crisis counseling provides education, guidance, and support to clients dealing with a traumatic event. The goal is to help people clients deal with the current situation in which they may find themselves. Many different techniques are used to assist clients.

Educations, creating a safe place, conquering irrational beliefs, breaking vicious cycles, facing fears are elements common to all techniques. Professional, paraprofessionals, and resident workers work together to help communities better cope with traumatic events.


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