Intervention and Critical Incident Stress Debriefings
Critical incidents such as officer-involved shootings (OIS), motor vehicle accidents, assault on an officer, suicides, and accidents can all be sources of stress. In some cases, the stress may be severe enough to result in long-lasting psychological trauma. If someone close to you has experienced a critical incident, you may feel the effects too. Critical incident stress debriefing (CISD) is a well-defined method for dealing with trauma and takes place with a small group of trauma survivors. CISD should not be substituted for psychotherapy and is best defined as a psycho – educational process utilizing a focused discussion of a traumatic event . CISD is a crisis intervention tool designed to be supportive in nature. The CISD group typically consists of people who experienced the same events. The group discussion is led by a trained facilitator and follows a multi-step process. The goal of CISD is to “normalize” the individual’s reaction and thereby reduce the overall level of stress and dysfunction.
Peer Support Groups
According to the international Association of Chiefs of police, “The goal of peer support is to provide all public safety employees in an agency the opportunity to receive emotional and tangible support through times of personal or professional crisis and to help anticipate and address potential difficulties. Ideally, peer support programs are developed and implemented under the organizational structure of the parent agency. For peer support program to work effectively, it must have support from the highest levels within an organization. A peer support person (PSP), sworn or civilian, is a specifically trained colleague, not a counselor or therapist. A peer support program can augment outreach programs such as employee assistance programs (EAP), in-house treatment programs, and out of agency psychological services and resources, but not replace them. PSP’s are trained to provide both day-to-day emotional support for department employees as well as participate in a department comprehensive response to critical incidents. They are trained to recognize and refer cases that require professional intervention or are beyond their scope of training to a licensed mental health professional.”1 For more information on setting up your peer support program, contact Dr. Jordan.
One-on-one counseling with a psychologist is always an option for individuals who have experienced trauma or are simply struggling as a result of stress, grief or life changes. Individual therapy can be very effective for helping people cope with critical incident trauma or the stress of everyday life. In a 2006 review of meta-analytic findings, researchers concluded that “overall, the findings showed clinically important benefits for trauma focused CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) over waitlist control groups on all measures of PTSD symptoms2. Another review study concluded that the efficacy of using “cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders was consistently strong …” and the evidence base for CBT is clear3
1International Association of Chiefs of Police, Police Psychological Services Section, 2011.
2Butler, A.C., Chapman, J.E., Forman, E.M. & Beck, A.T. (2006). The empirical status of cognitive behavioral therapy: A review of meta-analyses. Clinical
3Hofmann, S. G., Asnaani, A., Vonk, I. J. J., Sawyer, A. T., & Fang, A. (2012). The efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy: A review of Meta-analyses, Cognitive Therapy and Research, 36: 427-440.
Dr. Jordan is a board-certified psychologist who specializes in Police and Public Safety Psychology. He practices throughout Colorado and the metro Denver area providing testing and assessment work for police departments, sheriff’s offices, fire departments and a wide range of private entities. Dr. Jordan’s primary area of expertise is pre-employment testing for public safety applicants and Fitness for Duty assessments both for public safety and other organizations.