We have been though a thinking, conceptual process that may have you somewhat overwhelmed and uncertain about your insight and ability when responding to crisis. Crisis intervention is, of course, a thinking, conceptual process. More importantly, however, it is a feeling and doing process. Most newcomers to crisis intervention are initially apprehensive when they think about actually dealing with adults, children, and teenagers in crisis. They do not feel that they will be able to understand and deal with these important situations. Usually, their concern reflects a belief and feeling that they will not be able to “solve the problem.” As we have seen, though, crisis intervention does not solve problems in the sense that it changes life situations, gives advice, makes recommendations, and so on. The goal of crisis intervention is, rather, the much simpler goal of helping the individual get through the crisis. The main difficulty experienced by people in crisis is the fear that they will not be able to control their feelings and emotions or that their situation is going to rapidly deteriorate and never improve. By responding to the crisis, you are able to help them deal with these feelings and concerns in a way that increases their sense of control over themselves and their situation. They come to believe that things will get better or at least will not get any worse. You increase their sense of personal adequacy and confidence with a resulting improvement in their social and interpersonal functioning.
How do we accomplish our goal of getting people to calm down, slow down, and plan ahead? We start from a basic understanding that crisis always reflects a worsening or intensification of the conflict state. We know that all individuals have developmental needs, problems, and vulnerabilities that can get out of hand and far beyond their individual ability to cope. All people have a rational, planning, thinking dimension which usually serves them quite well in times of stress and conflict. For a multitude of reasons and causes, though, their emotional, fearing, angry dimension may overpower and overwhelm their usually competent self, temporarily immobilizing and getting in the way of their working out their problems. Similarly, the punishing, protective dimension may be inhibiting their capacity to deal effectively with their life situation. This temporary inability to cope may stem from within the individual or may be a product of his total situation. His “now,” “then,” and “when” may be interacting in a way that makes things just a little more than he can handle. In either event, we know that the interaction between the individual and his total situation is where he feels the problem. Somehow, his world and he are simply not working too well together.
The individual’s problems and conflicts have reached a point where things are likely to get worse fairly rapidly. His world is going out of control. The now potential is both real and apparent. How can he get things running smoothly again? Since his planning, reasoning dimension is being immobilized and since the now potential of his crisis is so high, it is reasonable to assume that he needs your help; he needs to fall back on your planning and thinking skills if he is to “get it together” again. Somehow, you need to help him focus on the crisis, see and understand what precipitated it, define the situation in terms of the most important factors and circumstances, look at the “snowball effect” or potential cumulative effect that could result from his not taking time to slow down and think things through, focus on the possible causes of the crisis both from within himself and from within his total situation, and help him to gradually develop a strategy for resolving or reducing the crisis. How will you do this? You will carefully develop an intervention hypothesis, evaluate your progress, consider alternative hypotheses, and continue the caring process until things are better.
Along with your understanding of the crisis intervention process, you have two additional areas of skill and understanding; namely, crisis communication and relationship building. The individual has the advantage of being in the communication loop with you. Through the interaction of his messages and your responses, his feelings and ideas will gradually be modified and clarified in a way that filters out the intense emotion and panic and gradually nudges the individual toward slowing down and planning ahead. Your recognition of the mood or color of his crisis will enable you to recognize the mix of yellow, red, and black emanating from the individual and to carefully and caringly respond in controlled shades of blue. Your blue response combined with your faith in people will enable you to provide rational support, encourage assessment, and develop possible solutions. The helpfulness of this process stems in part from your alertness to the objective meaning and content of the individual’s messages and in part from your sensitivity to the feelings attached to those messages. Your sensitivity lets you understand the feeling and clarify the whole message in both its objective and subjective dimensions.
Our knowledge of the crisis state lets us understand that a crisis generates from conflict within the interaction between the individual and his total situation. Occasionally, the people are in conflict between themselves and objects or environmental conditions. More frequently, however, the conflict lies within close and important relationship. Most crises are a product of interpersonal relationships that have deteriorated or otherwise gotten “messed up.” Sometimes, we may need to intervene in terms of environmental factors, conditions, and situations not directly involving relationships. More often than not, however, the need is to help the individual think through and plan ahead for significant and important personal relationships. The crisis will tend to be between parents and children, husbands and wives, friends, employers and employees, and within other relationships that have gotten out of hand.
As we are able to help the
individual get to a place where he has calmed down, slowed down, and is
beginning to plan ahead, we want to be sure to steer him along a helpful
course. His tendency will probably be to
want to repair the messed-up relationship.
Our understanding of relationships and of the relationship building
process encourages him to work toward a new relationship. He needs to understand that everyone has such
problems, that everyone has relationships that fail, and that understanding why
a particular relationship broke down is not particularly helpful. Instead, the emphasis needs to be on
beginning to build a new
As you relate to people in crisis, respond to their crises, see things better, and withdraw from the crisis relationship, you will probably experience a slight uneasiness and uncertainty as to your effectiveness. These concerned but uneasy feelings reflect your having heard, your having understood, and the very human reality that you really do care. I am now at one of those uneasy points myself, much like the one you experience after seeing a person in crisis, carefully and caringly responding, and saying a little prayer in the hope that the improvement will have some lasting quality. Has this book helped you to respond more effectively to crises in your own life and in the lives of others or has it merely served to further muddle the murky waters? You can partly answer this question by turning back to Mrs. A, Mrs. B, Mr. C, and Mrs. D in Chapter 1. Go back to the beginning. Try to listen closely to what these people in crisis are saying. They have initially presented themselves and their crisis to you and are asking you for a response. Where will you start and how will you proceed in responding to them?