Crises are not always what they seem to be. For example, Michelle is in what might be considered a suicidal crisis, that is, she might kill herself if something is not done. To the casual observer, it may seem that the “possible suicide” is the crisis. Of course, Michelle’s killing herself is the “potential” of the crisis. But it is not the crisis itself. The crisis exists in the temporary and serious interaction problem between Michelle and her situation.
Wanda’s anger is almost rage like. “That bastard—my husband—can’t think that he can treat me that way and that I’ll just sit around and do nothing. He’ll find out that I’m not just that quiet little mouse he thinks he married. I’m going to do it this time. I won’t stand for it. He can’t do that and get away with it.”
What did Wanda’s husband do? What is she going to do? From her initial angry comments, we are unable to answer either question. Nonetheless, considering how angry she is, we get a sense that her actions may not work out very well. Within those actions lies the now potential of the crisis. Whatever her husband did seems to have precipitated the crisis. We can see, then, that Wanda is between the precipitating event and acting out the now potential. For her, though, the crisis is now. Her present interaction (with you) is the first focal point. Your assessment of her crisis will expand to include both the precipitating event and the now potential. You will look at possible causes and possible cumulative effects. Gradually, you can develop a picture of her crisis in a careful and caring way. Nonetheless, starting where Wanda is now and expanding your understanding from there allows you to assess her crisis effectively, gives emphasis to your “now” relationship with her, avoids the possibility of oversimplifying the crisis, on the one hand, or seeing it as more complex than it really is, on the other. You can help Wanda both understand and deal with her crisis as it really is.