Crisis intervention

Author: Ruth Forbes

Exploring crisis intervention theory

So what does crisis Intervention theory tell us about the experience of crisis?

  1. Crisis are time limited
    Caplan's work identified that crises are time limited - his research demonstrated that a crisis will tend to last for a period of around six weeks. It will then burn out and shift into another state of being.
  2. Follow a staged progression
    The period of crisis has a staged progression - a beginning, a middle and end. Each stage having different characteristics.
  3. Beginning stage
    An individual in crisis will tend in the beginning stage, to draw upon previously used coping strategies to manage the new threat. Familiar strategies will be employed even if they have previously been unsuccessful and counter productive. The choice of strategy is largely unconscious. An individual in crisis will strive to recreate their previous form of equilibrium. Service users experiencing threat may also utilise protective defence mechanisms – like denial, disbelief, projection etc.
  4. Middle stage
    In the middle stage of crisis, people can be more receptive to help than at other times. Mental, emotional and physical energy can accompany this time of disorganisation and the individual can be assisted to employ different strategies, consider alternative choices. Learning new coping strategies at this stage can develop future resilience.
  5. Final stage
    The final stage of crisis will involve either resolution of the perceived event/trigger, a re-definition of the problem or a shift in their management of the dilemma.
  6. Crises imply lose
    Crises imply loss: both internal, connecting to previous experiences of loss and separation; or external and actual in terms of immediate life event.
  7. Some crises are normal
    Some crises are situational and ‘normal'. Erikson's theory of human development is based on the identified crisis points of key life stages – for example, the crisis of moving from childhood to young adulthood. (Erikson 1965)
  8. Threat can be motivational
    The experience of threat to the self as a result of crisis means that some people will be motivated to seek help who might not otherwise have become service users.
  9. Crises can create positive growth and change
    Crises, whilst initially immobilising, can create positive growth and change and can be harnessed as significant, constructive experiences. Intervention at this point can be more successful than during periods of reduced tension. Don't be afraid of a crisis!!