DRChristensen inc. - Renee Christensen, Ph.D., CEAP, SAP, CISM
What is Critical Incident Stress Management?
The "classic" CISM model was developed by Dr. Jeffrey Mitchell of the University of Maryland for use with emergency services personnel and promulgated by the American Critical Incident Stress Foundation, which was founded in 1989 (the name was changed to the "International Critical Incident Stress Foundation" in 1991 to reflect the expansion of the model beyond US boundaries). Initially developed for firefighters, paramedics and police officers, the use of the Mitchell Model has been expanded for use in natural disasters, school-based incidents, and a variety of other settings, including, in recent years, the U.S. military and survivors of terrorist acts.
What is a Critical Incident?
A Critical Incident is defined here as a workplace event which is extraordinary in nature with the expectation of producing significant reactions on the part of victims or those either directly or indirectly impacted. Who can be affected? Witnesses, employees, colleagues, clients and/or family members all can be affected and can create risk.
Typical examples include:
Client Illness (heart attack in lobby)
Severe or Prolonged Illness of Employee (Cancer, AIDS, etc)
Sudden Death of Employee
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Why offer a Debriefing?
The purpose of the debriefing is to take the active memories of the event and store them into long term memory. After a traumatic event our minds work to bring “closure” to the incident. Until closure is reached our minds continue to run a memory track of the event in hopes of making the incident make sense and be logical. We continue to “turn over” the situation and review it until our minds feel satisfied that it “now makes sense.” A major consequence of a traumatic event is that the person feels that order and control in their life has been lost. The brain keeps turning over the sequence of events to regain order and control. In a debriefing a trained person helps the individuals understand the event, their lack of ability to control situations and then to store the incident into long term memory. Not all situations or persons need a debriefing, but for those persons who continue to not sleep, have anger issues emerge, or continue have difficulty in focusing attention a debriefing may prevent Post Traumatic Stress.
To decrease the company’s exposure
To provide means for emotional expression by individuals involved in the event
To decrease distressing symptoms and prevent onset of PTSD
To assimilate the traumatic experience
To regain/increase capacity for self-control
To reduce the focus of the event in the daily lives of survivors
To provide emotional support/enhance group cohesion
To dispel myths and reduce self-blame
To restore adaptive levels of trust
To restore capacity for emotional response
To alleviate disabling fears and anxieties caused by the trauma
To provide structure and stability
To prepare for physical and psychological symptoms that may follow
To inform individuals about stress, stress reactions and survival methods
To promote appropriate and realistic problem-solving
To assess individual coping skills & make referrals if necessary
To identify and access additional resources or support systems