Crisis Intervention Strategies and Skills

Subject: Psychology
Pages: 10
Words: 2773
Reading time:
11 min
Study level: PhD

Type of Disaster

Sichuan earthquake was one of the natural disasters that hit China in 2008, causing destruction of property and loss of lives. The disaster is considered one of the deadliest to have occurred in human history given its magnitude, which was measured at 8.0. More than seventy thousand lives were lost and an additional eighteen thousand were reported missing as regards the incident. The epicenter of the disaster was one of the towns referred to as Chengdu, which happened to be the capital city of Sichuan province. Financially, an approximated $29 billion were lost, even though some reports gave higher loss margins. Following the disaster, both domestic and international crisis workers moved in to help those in need of humanitarian assistance. Some of the buildings including Jin Mao Tower and the Hong Kong New World Tower were evacuated. The head of state of the People’s Republic of China announced that the response to the crisis would be swift to salvage the situation. The Chinese Disaster Relief Commission moved with speed and agility to initiate a Level II emergency contingency plan. The plan is initiated to respond to some of the deadliest disasters.

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Crisis Intervention Approach

In a natural disaster crisis, such as the one witnessed in Sichuan, China, crisis workers need to assist victims in managing post-traumatic stress disorders. Such victims usually suffer from acute and posttraumatic stress disorders, which may perhaps affect their normal functioning of the brain. This would affect their normal lives. In this case, the crisis worker needs to employ approaches such as informing others about the conditions of the victims, making phone calls to necessary humanitarian organizations, specializing in offering professional services, and trying as much as possible to assist the victim to reschedule his or her daily routine. One of the most important approaches is offering a safe place to the victim before starting talking about the disaster. By providing a safe place, the crisis worker may have a chance to discuss the symptoms of post-traumatic stress, as well as other brain problems affecting the victim. Studies show that victims rarely discuss their problems in public, even though they feel relieved after speaking out about their predicaments. Furthermore, symptoms of stress are reduced after discussing them with an expert. Scholars have proved through research that victims can view the problem affecting them from a different perspective after discussing it with a crisis worker (Aguilera, 1998). Adult victims may prefer talking to a therapist while children may express their disappointments through child-related activities such as play. Therefore, the crisis worker may employ play therapy to solve the problems facing the child. The crisis worker should employ an approach that would be suitable to the victim since some behavior changes owing to a disastrous event may affect the whole family.

In case the whole family is affected by a disastrous event, the crisis worker should employ an approach aimed at solving the problems at a family level rather than at an individual level. The crisis worker would perhaps meet with the entire family and try to tackle some of the issues, which would improve communication among members of the family. The aim of the crisis worker in addressing the problems facing the victims of the earthquake and other dangerous natural disasters is to recover the event, break it down into manageable levels, try to comprehend it, master it, digest the event, and make the victim more enlightened. A natural disaster may interfere with an individual’s coping mechanisms, which overwhelms the individual to an extent of causing psychological trauma. Through the experience and writings of various scholars, it has come to focus that some victims are uninterested to talk about their problems. Others are even worse because they are unable to speak about or recall anything concerning the disastrous event. In this case, the crisis worker would apply a different approach, which is related to encouraging the victim to share his or her problems with close members of the family or professionals he or she trusts (Koocher, Erin & Krista, 2001).

In addressing issues related to a natural disaster, the crisis worker needs to understand that each person is affected by the disaster, including the worker himself or herself. Consequently, the crisis worker should remember to keep in mind several principles when dealing with a catastrophic event. For this reason, crisis workers need to take care of themselves in order not to be overwhelmed or not to be emotionally drained by the volunteer ship work. In this regard, they should eat well, take some breaks, and rest whenever they feel that they are tired. Furthermore, the crisis worker should remember as much as possible to think clearly, because the victim might be relying on him or her to offer directions and instructions.

Ethical Issues

Human service delivery services work involves dealing with those sections of society who for various reasons are experiencing major problems and stress. These are people with unmet needs and difficulties, which call for assistance. Given this, the crisis worker should guard him or herself against the possibility of exploiting the client through unethical practice. For instance, the crisis worker should keep off from vices such as sexual exploitation. Values can be described as those things that society holds dear. It is related to our consciousness that is, how conscious are we as crisis workers in addressing the client’s needs. The more conscious we are of our values, the more likely we can ensure that our actions are consistent with the values. Professional values are those set of beliefs that are approved by a certain profession. They describe how we should behave as crisis workers, towards each other, could it be towards clients, co-workers, or supervisors. Values influence our attitudes and discourage or encourage us from certain behaviors. Therefore, values are vital components of human service delivery because they guide our behavior and the kind of relationships we form with our clients. They help us not to exploit clients for example through sexual misconduct (Johnson, 1997).

One of the main values is putting clients’ needs first. This should be done by rearranging one’s schedule and meet clients rather than going on with own engagements. The crisis worker should arrange the schedule just for the sake of the earthquake victims. It should be noted at this stage that even when the client’s needs are put first, the worker should take procedures not to exploit the victims emotionally, financially, or sexually. Another important ethical value does not discriminate against victims. Crisis workers deal with clients who have been discriminated against already. Others are in great trouble and need critical assistance from the worker. Naturally, crisis workers may find some clients to be appealing while others might be disgusting. This should be treated as a normal occurrence in a working environment because the worker could be dealing with clients from different backgrounds in terms of religion, culture, and education. The worker needs to note that the worker is to be treated fairly, no matter how he or she feels about the client.

Effects of Disasters

A disaster is known to affect an individual’s social interaction in society since it interferes with an individual’s behavior, societal development, and the ecosystem. In a disastrous situation, an individual is believed to act irrationally meaning people act out of panic and fear. Some individuals might be unable to think clearly, while others might make uninformed decisions. A section of the victims is usually tempted to move in masses, which brings about humanitarian crises. However, studies show that flight panic occurs rarely. Some people tend to ignore the instructions of crisis workers after realizing that their properties have been destroyed. Such people give rescue workers a difficult time since crisis workers are forced to engage in hazardous searches, which puts their lives in danger. Antisocial behavior should not be ruled out after the occurrence of a disaster. Antisocial behavior in this sense constitutes three major aspects, one being the aspect of looting. Some of the victims, especially those from the low social class would claim to assist in the rescue mission whereas their ultimate goal is to loot. Some victims may perhaps engage in acts of violence to protect their interests. The last aspect of antisocial behavior is related to price gauging.

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On development, disasters are known to retard the economic, social, and political development of an affected region. Studies show that natural disasters affect the social welfare of a region, as well as the social well-being of families. Disasters increase the poverty rates and deprive the community of its valued resources that are utilized in fulfilling daily needs. A study conducted in the US confirmed that a disaster reduces the growth of an affected region by 0.8 percent. Disasters have been accused of causing social inequalities in societies. The earthquakes in China affected those who had already suffered from societal injustices in terms of ownership of property. The victims suffered from income fluctuations and had little access to monetary services such as loans and mortgages. After the earthquake, the victims were even affected more (Dattilio, & Freeman, 1994). They had difficulties in acquiring some of the basic goods and their standards of living depreciated further. The rich were not affected so much in terms of capital because a majority of them had insured their properties.

On the ecosystem, earthquakes have tremendous effects. Earthquakes produce seismic waves that generate violent ground shaking. The waves lead to numerous environmental damages, including damaging the transportation structure, buildings, communication systems, and utilities. One of the effects of earthquakes on ecosystems is related to liquefaction, which is a process whereby strong ground movement during an earthquake causes water infiltration and non-consolidation of soil that act more like an impenetrable liquid than fluid. It takes place when a substance of solid reliability is altered with increased water pressure into a liquid state. When this happens, buildings would collapse given that the soil can no longer hold anything heavy. The ground motion would also cause a landslide. Landslides are always blamed during earthquakes because they interfere with rescue missions (Mills, Edmondson, & Park, 2007).

Global Impact of Earthquakes

Earthquakes affect the global tourism community because travelers are warned against using routes that are suspected to be prone to earthquakes. In other words, earthquakes, as well as other natural disasters such as nuclear accidents, affect global trade, financial relationships, and tourism. After the occurrence of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, many countries felt the heat because their residents could not visit China fearing that some parts could as well experience earthquakes. The US state department for instance issued an advisory to its citizens not to visit China unless advised to do so. This affected global trade because, in the globalized world, states depend on each other implying that goods are to be produced in one region of the world and consumed all over. This would mean that trade is to travel to either production or consumption regions to transact business. The neighboring states such as Taiwan were affected because they largely depend on China for trade and business (Mahoney, Chandra, Gambheera, De Silva, & Suveendran, 2006,).

Crisis Intervention Strategies and Skills

For the victims of earthquakes, two main strategies would be employed to solve their problems. One of the strategies would be to educate the victims on what they should do to continue with their normal lives. The crisis worker should undertake the responsibility to inform the victim that he or she would go back to the normal situation once the counseling process is through. The victim needs to be informed that his or her reaction to the traumatizing event is normal and everything would be normal afterward. Furthermore, the crisis worker needs to inform the victim that the reactions and change of behavior are temporary and that the victim would go back to his or her normal behavior once he or she accepts to interact with the specialists. However, the recovery period would take time hence the victim needs to be sensitized to employ a positive approach towards life. To apply this strategy successfully, the crisis worker would be required to possess adequate skills to convince the victim that whatever is being conveyed to him or her is true. For instance, the crisis worker needs to employ some skills that would convince the victim that the worker is empathetic and willing to help (France, 1996).

The second strategy would be aimed at assisting the victim to comprehend the disastrous event. This strategy would help the victim to respond positively to the disaster, as well as be aware of events that would derail his or her healing process. Since individuals might be having some strategies that help them solve disastrous problems, some of the strategies might not be functional, even though the individual prefers them. In this case, the crisis worker should be skillful meaning that he or she must come up with strategies that please the victim. This would mean that the crisis worker would only be required to enhance or bolster some of the strategies preferred by the victim. One of the skills that victims need to be equipped with includes relaxation techniques and engaging in frequent exercises, which would help the victim of a disaster to reduce body tension and stress (Van der Kolk, McFarlane, & Weisaeth, 1996).

Long-term Psychological Effects

Research conducted in Italy following the Naples Olivetti Heart Study showed that individuals would have a long-term effect following the occurrence of an earthquake. The study revealed that in the first seven years, the victim would be affected more and would be unable to cope with the effects of the event. Similarly, the study revealed that even those who were evacuated in time would still suffer from long-term psychological effects. It is, therefore, true that financial loss results in long-lasting psychological stress. This is mainly because the individual might be unable to go back to his or her initial financial status. Governments are usually reluctant to compensate people after losing their properties. On the other hand, few people insure their properties given the high rates of premiums charged by the insurance firms. When a disaster happens, an individual fails to establish the point at which he or she would start life once more. The study conducted in Italy suggested that men were likely to go through long-lasting stress given the fact that they are supposed to provide for their families (Jeffrey, & Everly, 1996).

Risk and Resilience Factors

One of the risk factors includes the severity of the exposure. Those victims who could have been involved directly in the disaster tend to suffer more as opposed to those who could have been affected indirectly. Such victims tend to take more time in terms of recovering from the disastrous event. Another risk fact is the gender of the victim. Studies show that women and girls tend to be affected more as opposed to men and boys. Furthermore, those with families are affected more, given the fact that they have to provide for their families in case they are breadwinners. Another specific risk factor for the Sichuan earthquake in the region. China is considered a third-world country meaning that it does not have proper measures for handling traumatizing events. One of the resilience factors in coping confidence. Many victims tend to behave as if the event is too much for them and they cannot recover easily. This affects the healing process. Those victims full of confidence usually recover faster as compared to those who believe that the situation is bearable for them. Communities that do not embrace social support tend to suffer from recovery. Social support augments the individual’s well-being and restricts distress after any disastrous event (Slaby, 1998).

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Scholars have generated a considerable number of studies delving into the field of crisis intervention. However, much needs to be done to be fully prepared to handle natural disasters. Scholars should try as much as possible to increase the number of surveys, which should have adequate samples to pave way for analysis as regards population segments, including demographic and socio-demographic peculiarities, topography, and other related factors. When conducting research, surveys should emphasize specific audience portions to bolster existing crisis intervention campaigns, as well as enhance other crisis intervention strategies. If this is initiated, crisis intervention strategies would be people-focused and they would be able to help people from different cultural and educational backgrounds. Finally, future studies should focus more on the specific types of threats posed by earthquakes. Researchers need to come up with strategies that would apply to specific disasters and avoid generalizations.


Aguilera, D. (1998). Crisis Intervention: Theory and Methodology. New York: Mosby.

Dattilio, F., & Freeman, R. (1994). Cognitive-Behavioral Strategies in Crisis Intervention. New York: Guilford.

France, K. (1996). Crisis Intervention: A Handbook of Immediate Person-to-Person Help. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.

Jeffrey,M., & Everly, G. (1996). Critical Incident Stress Debriefing: An Operations Manual for the Prevention of Traumatic Stress among Emergency Services and Disaster Workers. Ellicott City, MD: Chevron.

Johnson, S. (1997). Therapist’s Guide to Clinical Intervention: The 1-2-3s of Treatment Planning. New York: Academic Press.

Koocher, G., Erin K., & Krista, E. (2001). Medical Crisis Counseling in a Health Maintenance Organization: Preventive Intervention. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 32(1), 52–58.

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Mahoney, J., Chandra, V., Gambheera, H., De Silva, T., & Suveendran, T. (2006). Responding to the mental health and psychosocial needs of the people of Sri Lanka in disasters. International Review of Psychiatry, 18(6), 593–597.

Mills, M. A., Edmondson, D., & Park, C. L. (2007). Trauma and stress response among Hurricane Katrina evacuees. American Journal of Public Health, 97, S116–S123.

Slaby, A. (1998). Risk Management with Suicidal Patients. New York: Guilford,.

Van der Kolk, C., McFarlane, A., & L. Weisaeth, H. (1996.). Traumatic stress: The effects of overwhelming experience on mind, body, and society. New York: Guilford Press.