Human service professionals learn practical skills, techniques and strategies so they can successfully intervene when families have been impacted by a crisis. A crisis may be in the form of a natural disaster such as a tornado, hurricane and/or flood. Each family is unique, therefore the way they handle the trauma of a crisis will be different for each family and for each family member. Predicting what the needs of a family will be if they experience a crisis is almost impossible. A crisis intervention professional has many resources available; a crisis intervention model is valuable as a guide for efficiently and effectively helping a family deal with trauma. This paper explores the case of the Rodriguez family after they lost both their home and income in a flood. The Gilliard and James Six-Step Model of Crisis intervention as outlined by James (2008) is used.
The Rodriguez Family
The four members of the Rodriguez family are Michael and Sarah, the father and mother, and their twin daughters, Cynthia and Mary. Cynthia and Mary are nine years old. They are staying at an emergency center because their home was lost in a flood. The house was not covered by flood insurance. Michael is a full-time student so Sarah provided the income for the family before the flood. The restaurant where Mary worked was also destroyed in the flood.
Basic needs and defining the problem. The Rodriguez family lost everything in the flood. Their immediate needs are for food, clothing and shelter which the human services emergency shelter had provided for them. Sitting with family and carefully listening to them in
order to assess any other basic needs is the first step. “Empathy, genuineness, and acceptance (or positive regard)” are the core listening skills needed at this time (James, 2008, 39). Good listening will identify the perspective of the family and allow the recognition of other needs.
Ensuring the safety of the family. ). Maximizing the family’s safety is a key job of the crisis worker for the duration of the intervention. An important assessment necessary from the beginning is to evaluate if the clients are in danger from self or from others. An example would be danger due to depression (self injury) or danger from an ex-spouse (others). The worker needs to look for extreme behavior such as withdrawal or acting out inappropriately. (James, 2008, 42) The crisis client is impacted by (a) “the duration of the crisis, (b) the degree of emotional stamina or coping at the client’s disposal at the moment, (c) the ecosystem with which the client resides, and (4) the developmental stage of the client” (James, 2008, 50).
The Rodriguez parents are upset but caring for their daughters has made them active in coming up with solutions. They seem stressed but they are not in shock. Michael is already devising a way to continue his education although most of his books and notes have been lost. Sarah and Michael are also attempting to make a list of family and friends that may be able to offer them support.
Providing support. Listening passively at this point allowed Michael and Sarah to voice their concerns and hopes with no interruption. The worker was able to listen using the core skills. Another skill the worker used was to listen non-judgmentally. That was important when private extended family issues came up between the two parents. Just as importantly the children, Cynthia and Mary, were allowed to talk about their fears and hopes. They were allowed to draw with colors so that their feelings could be expressed better.
Examining referrals. Because Sarah and Michael are young, healthy and resilient they are ready to accept opportunities such as referral services that are offered by the crisis worker. They are distracted but this is not due to being “cognitively stuck” (James, 2008, 39). It is expected and with help in emphasizing focus and other guidance from the crisis worker they will continue to be actively involved in finding solutions to their situation.
Making plans. If there are a lot of disappointments for the Rodriguiz parents there is a possibility that they will lose their energy and feel like giving up. In that case elements of SMART intervention could be used. If a client shows a “lack of purpose” the SMART model suggests helping the client become more accepting of the unpredictably of life by learning about a Zen lifestyle. The SMART model takes a holistic approach to helping a client so a type of meditation that best fits the personality and needs of the client would be appropriate to use. (Chan et al., 2006, 28)
Obtaining commitment to positive action. In order to reinforce commitment to positive action it may be necessary to introduce the Rodriguez family to other crisis victims in their age group who also have children. Cohen and Graybeal (2007) have pointed out that a Mutual Aid model has been shown to be very successful for focusing on solutions rather than on problems.
This brief case study has used the Gilliard and James Six-Step Model of Crisis intervention as an example for handling clients. The SMART model and the Mutual Aid Model were also suggested to keep in mind in case they are needed during the crisis intervention process. Many models exist which are helpful in different situations. Castellano and Plionis (2006) offer a discussion on three models that are especially suited when the crisis worker needs to support first responders. There are also times when first responders are victims of natural disaster such as during Hurricane Katrina (Castellano & Plionis, 2006, 326).
It does not matter which model is used. The skill that is important in any situation is for the worker to hear what the client is saying. Listening is the most important talent to learn well in order to understand what a crisis client needs. A client’s needs go beyond the basics of food, clothing and shelter. A client may need psychological support or medical support. Skilled listening can also help the crisis worker notice if the client is endangering themselves with self destructive behavior or danger from others. Clients need to know that their crisis worker cares about what happens to them.
Chan, C. L. W., Chan, T. H. Y., & Ng, S. M. (2006). The strength-focused and meaning-oriented approach to resilience and transformation (SMART): A body-mind-spirit approach to trauma management. Social Work in Health Care, 43(2/3), 9–36.
Cohen, M. B. & Graybeal, C. T. (2007). Using solution-oriented techniques in mutual aid groups. Social Work with Groups, 30(4), 41-58. doi:10.1300/J009v30n04_04
James, R. K. (2008). Crisis intervention strategies (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole.
Castellano, C., & Plionis, E. (2006). Comparative analysis of three crisis intervention models applied to law enforcement first responders during 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. Brief Treatment and Crisis Intervention, 6(4), 326-336.