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Part I Crisis Intervention

Chapter 1 People in Crisis


Mrs. A is crying, and her voice
quivers as she talks.  “I guess what
really got me was that when I got home he was there.  He was still up, and he said he had to get
some sleep.  I said, ‘All right,’ and
asked him if I could talk with him.  He
said he didn’t want to go to sleep in bed, but wanted to sleep on the
couch.  I said, ‘All right, if that’s the
way it has to be.’  I said, ‘Isn’t there
any chance at all for me?’ He said no. 
He keeps asking me why I’m making it hard.  I told him whatever he decides, I’m not going
to stand in the way.  I told him that I
wanted him—I was honest—that I didn’t want to lose him, but if he decided that he
wanted her or if something fell through with her and he still didn’t want me, I
could accept it.

“He said, ‘Even if it fell through
and I came back to you, I’d probably think about her the rest of my life.’ And
I said I could even accept that.  I know
I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and I just didn’t realize things are as bad as
they are.  Whenever I thought things were
bad, he’d say things are okay.  I’d say,
‘But they are not for me.’ But he’d always say they are going fine for
him.  I guess I just didn’t understand.

“I wanted to talk to him.  I wanted to know if I had a chance.  I told him that I thought he really didn’t know
me, and I thought I ought to have a chance with him like she has.  I thought I’d have a chance to be myself
around him, and he said he’d give me a chance, but that didn’t mean that there
is a chance for our marriage to work or that he would want me back.

“He slept on the couch, and I went
into the bedroom.  It just—it hit me all
at once.  I have to do something.  It hurts too much.  I can’t stand it.”

Mrs. B is talking in a very
matter-of-fact way, almost as if she were talking about someone else.  “My husband still has a lot of doubts about
things.  He still feels like he can’t trust
me.  I don’t feel like I can go back to
him as long as he feels that way. 
Yesterday he said he still has his doubts about whether things are going
to work out for us or not.  I really
tried to show him I mean what I say, but it doesn’t seem like anything I’ve
said or done helps matters any.

I don’t know what’s going to happen
to the kids.  I’m getting to where I
can’t stand them, especially the youngest one. 
It’s the way he cries all the time. 
I feel like I could smash in his head sometimes.  It’s terrible.  I think they should take him away from me
before I really do hurt him.

“I see their daddy every day, but
my mother says he is just using me.  I
suppose he is, but I don’t know what else to do.  I need some attention, too.  Mother thinks I should tell him he has to
stay away and I should just stay home and be with those kids.  He gets done at the office late, and I wait
for him and go for a drink.  I don’t
really care about it—I just do it to please him.  I think he is getting a drinking habit that
I’m not really crazy about.

“For me, I’ve been thinking a lot
about what to do.  It’s all on me—him,
the kids, my mother.  It’s too much for
one person.  At least it’s too much for

Mr. C is quite tense and talks
quite rapidly, with a cutting quality to his voice.  “Well, I’m about ready to give up.  It’s like this.  I can’t find a higher-paying job, and the job
I have now I got sick at yesterday.  I
had to go home.  I had a splitting
headache.  Things are beginning to stack
up on me.

“I’ve been working my tail off, and
now my daughter is running with some white boy. 
I’ll kill that son-of-a-bitch if I catch him messing with her.  I was having a drink at a bar the other day,
and I saw this white man with his hand and mouth at this black girl.  I asked him to lay off, and he asked if I
wanted to fight.  I broke my hand on his
face.  I think I’m cracking up.  I don’t know what’s going on.  I’m losing it; God help me!”

Mrs. D is talking quite slowly,
seems exhausted, and has a quality of futility and despair.  “I don’t feel like there is any relationship
left.  I think that over a period of time
it’s built up to where it’s reached a breaking point.  It just got to where I felt like I was
completely responsible.  He wasn’t any
help to me.  He was satisfied with things
like going to work on his race car, and when he came home, he was too tired to
do anything for me or to do what I wanted to do.  When I went back to work, I told him that I
worked as many hours as he did; but he always worked harder than I did,
according to him.  He was always too
tired to do anything with the children. 
Things are left for me to do.  I
felt the complete responsibility, and he just didn’t want to help.

“One night last summer, he woke me
up in the middle of the night and told me about these hang-ups he has and the
stuff he has been doing.  I know he
thinks about being a girl sometimes and wants to dress up in my clothes when we
have intercourse.  He said that when I
was at work he had been putting our little girl to bed early and then dressing
up in my clothes and “taking care” of himself. 
He got to the point where he didn’t like to be home alone.  He’d get a buddy and go drinking while I was at
work, leaving our little girl at home by herself.

“He finally broke down and told me
that he had been picked up by the police on suspicion of having drugs.  He’d been drinking and had a fifteen-year-old
girl in the car.  He’d picked her up, but
he got off lucky because the police thought she was his sister.  I told him, ‘Okay, you need to get help; this
is something you can’t just get over.’ He said he’d just fight it on his own,
that he could overcome it.  He said we
didn’t have the money for help, and I told him I’d work it out to cut corners
as long as necessary to get him help.  He
refused, and so we sent on as before. 
This situation was irritating to live with.  Several times I asked him to change jobs, and
again I asked him to get help.  Nothing I
could do would open his mind.  I finally
said, ‘Okay, I’m going to get a divorce.’

“It’s gotten me to the point where
I don’t care anymore.  I feel he needs
help.  If I can help him, as a person, I
feel like I ought to go back and help him. 
He says he can’t live without me, and I’m afraid he might try something
desperate.  If he tries to kill himself
or something, it would be my fault. 
That’s like it is, but I’ve lost all love and respect—I’ve just lost all
feeling—for him.

“When he is home, as soon as he
comes in, I start feeling tense and shaky. 
When I’ve asked him to get help for my sake, it didn’t mean enough to
him—but I feel it’s too late for me.  I
don’t know what to do.


Mrs. A, Mrs. B, Mr. C, and Mrs. D
are each caught up in a personal crisis. 
Suppose you were the emergency room physician who treated Mr. C’s hand
when he broke it in the barroom fight; while you were working on his injury, he
started to tell you about his worries and difficulties.  Remembering Mrs. D’s husband and the
fifteen-year-old girl he had picked up, how would you have helped the girl’s
parents if you had found out she was not Mr. D’s sister and had to tell them
about her escapade?  Suppose you were a
child welfare worker and had received a call from Mrs. B during one of those
times when she was having intense, negative feelings toward her child.  Or perhaps you were Mrs. A’s best friend, the
one person she could call at 2:00 A.M., when she ran to the bedroom.  How would you be able to help?

Mrs. A is apparently having serious
marital difficulty.  She and her husband
do not have a very good relationship and seem to have difficulty communicating
with each other.  In addition, Mr. A is,
at least emotionally, involved with another woman and appears to feel alienated
from Mrs. A.  She, in turn, feels
frustrated and cut off from her husband. 
There is a sense of futility and hopelessness in what she says.  She feels she has to do something.  Will she try to kill herself; strike out at
her husband or at his friend; run to her family or friends; or become extremely
depressed, not eat, and withdraw?  At
this point, she chose to talk to you.  If
you are able to help, she will develop a way of dealing wit her immediate
situation.  If not, her anxiety and
tensions may push her into some undesirable behavior or situation.

Mrs. B is separated from her
husband, although she sees him every day. 
Apparently, something happened to cause him to lose his trust and faith
in her.  She seems to want to reestablish
a good relationship with him but is unsure about his feelings and intentions.  She is getting a good deal of pressure from
her mother, is concerned about her husband’s drinking, and seems especially
apprehensive about her feelings toward her child.  Should she stay away from her husband or continue
trying to work things out with him?  How justified
is her concern about her husband’s drinking? 
How should she deal with the criticism and pressure from her
mother?  How can she better cope with her
children and with her intense feelings of anger and frustration?  She has said to you, “Help me!”  What can you do to help?

Mr. C is upset about several
things.  He is having difficulty at work
and is finding it hard to cope with his financial and family
responsibilities.  In addition, he is
angry about his daughter’s relationship with her boyfriend and would like to
take his anger out on the boy.  It also
appears that he is quite upset about the relationships between white men and
black women in general.  We know that he
has a broken hand from hitting a man in a bar. 
He feels very agitated and confused and is somewhat desperate.  This anger may lead him to actually hurt his
daughter’s boyfriend, or he may get into another fight.  We can see that his frustration and anger are
also affecting his work and could lead to his walking off the job or doing
something else equally destructive.  He
has come to you.  What will you do to
help?  If you are successful, he will be
more able to deal with his angry feelings, and perhaps he will develop a better
perspective about his life situation.  If
not, he is likely to take out his anger on himself or on someone else.

Mrs. D seems trapped between her
feeling that she would like to get away from her husband and her fear that he
might hurt himself if she were to leave. 
She is upset, angry, and confused about many of his attitudes,
especially about his unusual behavior. 
She seems to feel somewhat overwhelmed by all the confusion and
responsibility.  She has repeatedly tried
to work things out with him and also has tried to get him to accept outside
help.  She seems to feel that the
relationship is hopeless and, in fact, as if “there is no relationship
left.”  If she just stays away from her
husband, will he get worse, start harassing her, hurt himself?  If she keeps trying to work things out with
him, will their relationship improve, get worse, or will things just go on as
they have in the past?  She is asking you
to advise her, tell her what to do, come up with a solution to her problem.  Will you be able to help?

As you develop an understanding of
the crisis intervention process and acquire skills and experience in crisis
intervention, you will be able to help with crises like the four discussed
above.  You will be able to understand
the conflicts involved in the interaction between the individual and the
situation.  You will learn to focus on
the crisis, assess the individual and the situation, and effectively intervene
in a way that leads to the individual being able to deal with his or her life
situation in a reasonable and effective way. 
Help is only helpful it if helps. 
Your help will help.

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