What is Crisis Counselling?

~ How to Respond to a Crisis ~


Crisis Intervention

Crisis intervention refers to the methods used to offer short term immediate help to individuals who have experienced an event that produces mental, physical, emotional and behavioural distress.


“Crisis Intervention: TEMPORARY, but ACTIVE and SUPPORTIVE entry into the life of individuals or groups during a period of extreme distress. “Emotional First Aid.”Different interventions tools are used for individuals vs. groups.”

(Jeffrey H. Mitchell, PhD)



Crises happens to everyone, and intervention can take many forms, from family helping and support strategies to professional counselling strategies aimed at helping the individual cope with crisis in ways that reduce the negative psychological, physiological and behavioural effects of trauma on that person and his or her environment.


The purpose of crisis counselling is to deal with the person’s current status by dealing with a crisis. Chronic exposure to stress or trauma can lead to mental illness. Therefore, it is important that counsellors have the skills and knowledge to help clients cope with their current stressors and trauma. Crisis counselling is not intended to provide psychotherapy or similar, but offers a short-term intervention to helps clients receive assistance, resources, stabilisation and support.

Learn how to support someone in crisis here

Crisis intervention differs from other counselling interventions in that it focuses on short-term strategies to prevent damage during and immediately after the experience of trauma. Crisis counselling is often followed by counselling for long term improvement of the client’s mental health and personal wellbeing.


Crisis intervention has several purposes. It aims to reduce the intensity of the person’s physical, mental, emotional and behavioural reactions to a crisis. It also helps the individual return to the level of functioning they were at before the incident.


There is also an educational component to crisis intervention. The individual will be advised of the normal reactions to an abnormal situation. The individual will be told that their responses are temporary and that there is not a specific time that the person can expect to recover from the crisis.


“Principles of Crisis Intervention:

Simplicity – People respond to simple not complex in a crisis

Brevity – Minutes up to 1 hour in most cases (3-5 contacts typical)

Innovation – Providers must be creative to manage new situations

Pragmatism – Suggestions must be practical if they are to work

Proximity – Most effective contacts are closer to operational zones

Immediacy – A state of crisis demands rapid intervention

Expectancy – The crisis intervener works to set up expectations of a

reasonable positive outcome”

(Jeffrey H. Mitchell, PhD)


Who Provides Crisis Intervention?

In the initial stages, a range of professionals may be involved.

They may include:

  • psychiatrists
  • psychologists
  • counsellors
  • fire fighters
  • emergency medical staff
  • search and rescue staff
  • police officers
  • doctors
  • nurses
  • soldiers
  • clergy
  • communications personnel
  • community members
  • hospital workers and so on.


Responding to a Crisis - Urgent or Routine?

The Goals of Crisis intervention are to

  • Mitigate the impact of an event
  • Facilitate a normal recovery process, where normal people are having normal reactions to abnormal events.
  • Restore adaptive functioning.

However, many societal factors will affect how a society responds to a crisis. They include:

  • Religion
  • Warfare
  • Medicine
  • Disasters
  • Law enforcement
  • Psychiatry and psychology
  • Emergency medical services

When responding to a crisis, the emergency services will deal with a wide range of psychological and social problems. Problems can occur slowly over time or suddenly. When people face a crisis, they can experience a range of psychological and physical symptoms, as well as changes in their relationship and routines. Some problems are emergencies and require urgent intervention and stabilisation, whilst others are not emergencies. Many may be urgent and require attention within three days. A qualified emergency and crisis intervention specialist can evaluate a crisis and give advise on the necessary steps to take.


Learn More: Study our Crisis Counselling Course -click for details

Find out more about Counselling in our "Counselling Handbook" ebook by ACS Staff

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