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How do we help an individual in
crisis deal with the content of that crisis? 
We gently encourage him to become involved with us in the assessment
set.  First, we want to think with them
about the precipitating event and what happened.  We know that the conflict is in the
interaction and that the precipitating event disrupted the interaction between
the individual and his situation.  We
also know that the precipitating event occurred fairly recently.  It may be true that the conflict has been
going on for a long time.  But the crisis
was precipitated by a fairly recent event, a worsening of the conflict, some
exacerbation of the difficulty in the interaction.

Frequently, people in crisis will
not be particularly receptive to this notion. 
They will want to blame themselves, see the cause as originating in the
past, or, more often than one might think, try to convince us that the crisis
has no cause.

Harold says, “My relationships with
my family, friends, fellow workers, and so on, are fine.  They are all wonderful people.  Don’t try to blame them for this.  I really haven’t done anything, either.  Nothing has happened.  This just came over me, and there is no
reason for it.”

Our understanding of crisis and of
the crisis intervention process lets us know that crises always have a
precipitating event.  In crisis
communication, then, we gently but persistently encourage the individual to think
about himself, his situation, and the interaction between him and his situation
until we both can see what caused the crisis. 
Usually, discovering and understanding the precipitating event is not
particularly difficult.  Sometimes,
though, we must be very patient and skillful to get to where both of us
understand “what happened.”

We can see now that the assessment
set is not for our benefit or information; rather it is an important part of
crisis communication.  As such, it helps
the individual assess his own crisis and helps him gradually start to use his
own thinking and planning skills.  Once
we have enabled him to analyze and understand the precipitating event, we
gradually start developing our “picture” of the crisis.  We think, with the individual, about the most
important aspects of his situation, himself, and the interaction between
himself and his situation.  Through this
process of looking at the individual, his situation, and the interaction, we
can gradually come to understand the conflict in the interaction in
relationship to the precipitating event. 
This, in turn, helps us better to understand the present crisis.  Important, however, is the fact that this
understanding is not for our benefit. 
The goal is to help the individual understand his situation, the
interaction, the conflict, the precipitating event, and, thus, the crisis.  The communication content helps the
individual think more clearly, analyze more thoroughly, and plan more
carefully.  He uses our skills to enhance
or supplement his own skills.

Continuing to combine our concern
for crisis color with the assessment set, communication content moves from the
precipitating event and our “picture” of the crisis to potential cumulative and
unseen effects of his crisis and of the things he is thinking about doing.  In addition, we will draw from our
understanding of the specific type of crisis to ask questions about possible
undesirable effects.

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