TOC Next Previous

GUIDELINES FOR INTERVENTION


Do we have a right to
intervene?  If the situation really is a
crisis (has high now potential and low self-resolution factor), we not only
have a right to intervene but we also have a responsibility to intervene.  This responsibility is based on our mutual
responsibility and a very human interest in one another.  A value framework underlying human services
and crisis intervention specifically directs us to do what is reasonable and
necessary for the well-being and welfare of people receiving our help.  The parallel with the Good Samaritan is
clear.


Will the individual in crisis get
angry with us, accuse us of meddling, tell us to leave him alone?  Perhaps. 
Will our efforts be appreciated? 
Will people see that we are making a sincere effort to help them?  Perhaps not. 
The question for us is, “When the ‘now potential’ is high and the
self-resolution factor is low, do we, at a feeling/valuing level, have any real
choice other than to do what we can to help?” 
Of course, if someone might die or if something else terrible might happen,
we will try to help.  If the individual
or someone close to him has asked, we will help.  At other times, our intervention will be
required by virtue of our job or position. 
Will you take a chance?  There are
personal, emotional, and interpersonal risks, and our willingness to take such
risks is an important part of what we bring to crisis intervention.  Professional counselors and psychotherapists
know about the balancing act between over involvement and under-involvement.  As a volunteer, student, or other newcomer to
crisis intervention, you will need to develop a feel for and an understanding
of the risks for yourself.  Not to take
the risk, though, many times means pulling back from the opportunity to help.  Whatever the situation or circumstance, when
a real crisis exists we will intervene, knowing that it is usually better to do
too much than too little.


Our intervention should be directed
by three specific considerations.  First,
is our intervention reasonable?  Based on
our knowledge and understanding of crisis intervention and people in crisis,
does the present situation really have a high “now potential” and a low
self-resolution factor?  A different kind
of crisis may illustrate the point.


A camp director is sitting in the
dining hall one evening, enjoying the peace and quiet of a solitary cup of
coffee.  A counselor comes running into
the hall.  He is quite out of
breath.  “Do you know what I just
saw?  You’ll never believe it!  Do you know what those kids are doing?  [The director says: No, what are they
doing?]  There is a bunch of those high
school kids fooling around down by the path to the swimming pool.  What are we going to do about it?  This is terrible!  Come down there with me so we can get this
straightened out.  What are you going to
do about it?  [The director says: I don’t
know.  What do you think I should do
about it?]  You should go down there
right now and break that up and have a good talk with them about that sort of
thing.[The director says: If that’s all they’re doing, they will probably break
it up in a little while, anyway.  It’s
almost time for taps.  Let’s see if they
don’t just go back to their cabins themselves.]”


The director seemed to understand
that crisis intervention should be resorted to only when intervention is
reasonable.  The now potential of the
situation was apparently fairly low, and since it was almost time for taps, the
crisis would probably resolve itself fairly quickly.   People will often try to get us involved in
situations that are not really crisis. 
At other times, they may be extremely upset and try to manipulate us
into doing things that the situation does not actually call for.  Sometimes, the individual may be so upset
that we overreact to a relatively minor crisis. 
We must be careful to assess the now potential and the self-resolution
factor carefully in order to decide whether or not intervention is
reasonable.  In addition, our decision
should include a judgment about how serious the situation really is.  What level and intensity of intervention
would be reasonable given the present situation?


Second, we should consider the
appropriateness of our intervention.  We
have determined that intervention is reasonable and have made a judgment about
the level and intensity of intervention required.  There may be a lot of things we could do
about the problem.  We must carefully
think about each of our options and choose only those that, given the
particular individual and circumstances, are appropriate.  In the earlier case of Ann, Mr. Z chose to
report Ann to the police when he discovered that she was using drugs.  He had several other intervention
alternatives.  He could have calmly
discussed the problem with Ann, he could have referred her to the guidance
counselor, he could have chosen to ignore the problem, he could have
disciplined her within the school, he could have called her parents and
involved them in the problem, and so on. 
In that situation, Mr. Z had to choose the most appropriate intervention
option.  In other situations, we may
consider obviously inappropriate intervention approaches.  For example, we may decide to let a runaway
teenager stay with us for a few days without notifying his parents, the police,
or other authorities.  Even though
intervention is necessary and the teenager needs someplace to stay, our failure
to notify his parents or some other authority is probably inappropriate.


Third, our consideration of the
reasonableness and appropriateness of our intervention must include the ethics
of intervention.  Obviously, a sexual or
other intimate involvement with the individual in a time of extreme stress and
crisis would be unethical.  Similarly, it
would usually be unethical to take it upon ourselves to inform other people
about the individual’s problems, circumstances, feelings, and so on.  Unless there are unusual extenuating
circumstances, ethical considerations preclude violating the individual’s
confidence.  We have invited the
individual to share his or her feelings and very personal thoughts with
us.  Implied in this invitation is our
agreement to keep those thoughts and feelings confidential.


If you are a member of a
professional group, your professional ethics will apply in all crisis
intervention situations.  If you are a
volunteer involved in crisis intervention, the organization for which you work
will have specific policies and standards regarding ethical conduct.  If, however, you have carefully considered
the crisis, have determined it’s now potential to be high and its
self-resolution factor to be low, believe that intervention is reasonable, feel
that your method of intervention is appropriate, and restrict intervention to
ethical activities in the individual’s best interest, you can and should
intervene.  Not only do you have the
right but you also have a responsibility to intervene.




TOC Next Previous