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Part IV Consolidating Skills

Chapter 12 Summing Up

We have been though a thinking,
conceptual process that may have you somewhat overwhelmed and uncertain about
your insight and ability when responding to crisis.  Crisis intervention is, of course, a
thinking, conceptual process.  More
importantly, however, it is a feeling and doing process.  Most newcomers to crisis intervention are
initially apprehensive when they think about actually dealing with adults,
children, and teenagers in crisis.  They
do not feel that they will be able to understand and deal with these important
situations.  Usually, their concern reflects
a belief and feeling that they will not be able to “solve the problem.” As we
have seen, though, crisis intervention does not solve problems in the sense
that it changes life situations, gives advice, makes recommendations, and so
on.  The goal of crisis intervention is,
rather, the much simpler goal of helping the individual get through the
crisis.  The main difficulty experienced
by people in crisis is the fear that they will not be able to control their
feelings and emotions or that their situation is going to rapidly deteriorate
and never improve.  By responding to the
crisis, you are able to help them deal with these feelings and concerns in a
way that increases their sense of control over themselves and their
situation.  They come to believe that
things will get better or at least will not get any worse.  You increase their sense of personal adequacy
and confidence with a resulting improvement in their social and interpersonal

How do we accomplish our goal of
getting people to calm down, slow down, and plan ahead?  We start from a basic understanding that
crisis always reflects a worsening or intensification of the conflict state.  We know that all individuals have
developmental needs, problems, and vulnerabilities that can get out of hand and
far beyond their individual ability to cope. 
All people have a rational, planning, thinking dimension which usually
serves them quite well in times of stress and conflict.  For a multitude of reasons and causes,
though, their emotional, fearing, angry dimension may overpower and overwhelm
their usually competent self, temporarily immobilizing and getting in the way
of their working out their problems. 
Similarly, the punishing, protective dimension may be inhibiting their
capacity to deal effectively with their life situation.  This temporary inability to cope may stem
from within the individual or may be a product of his total situation.  His “now,” “then,” and “when” may be
interacting in a way that makes things just a little more than he can
handle.  In either event, we know that
the interaction between the individual and his total situation is where he
feels the problem.  Somehow, his world
and he are simply not working too well together.

The individual’s problems and
conflicts have reached a point where things are likely to get worse fairly
rapidly.  His world is going out of
control.  The now potential is both real
and apparent.  How can he get things
running smoothly again?  Since his
planning, reasoning dimension is being immobilized and since the now potential
of his crisis is so high, it is reasonable to assume that he needs your help;
he needs to fall back on your planning and thinking skills if he is to “get it
together” again.  Somehow, you need to
help him focus on the crisis, see and understand what precipitated it, define
the situation in terms of the most important factors and circumstances, look at
the “snowball effect” or potential cumulative effect that could result from his
not taking time to slow down and think things through, focus on the possible
causes of the crisis both from within himself and from within his total
situation, and help him to gradually develop a strategy for resolving or reducing
the crisis.  How will you do this?  You will carefully develop an intervention
hypothesis, evaluate your progress, consider alternative hypotheses, and
continue the caring process until things are better.

Along with your understanding of
the crisis intervention process, you have two additional areas of skill and
understanding; namely, crisis communication and relationship building.  The individual has the advantage of being in
the communication loop with you.  Through
the interaction of his messages and your responses, his feelings and ideas will
gradually be modified and clarified in a way that filters out the intense
emotion and panic and gradually nudges the individual toward slowing down and
planning ahead.  Your recognition of the
mood or color of his crisis will enable you to recognize the mix of yellow,
red, and black emanating from the individual and to carefully and caringly
respond in controlled shades of blue. 
Your blue response combined with your faith in people will enable you to
provide rational support, encourage assessment, and develop possible
solutions.  The helpfulness of this
process stems in part from your alertness to the objective meaning and content
of the individual’s messages and in part from your sensitivity to the feelings
attached to those messages.  Your
sensitivity lets you understand the feeling and clarify the whole message in
both its objective and subjective dimensions.

Our knowledge of the crisis state
lets us understand that a crisis generates from conflict within the interaction
between the individual and his total situation. 
Occasionally, the people are in conflict between themselves and objects
or environmental conditions.  More
frequently, however, the conflict lies within close and important
relationship.  Most crises are a product
of interpersonal relationships that have deteriorated or otherwise gotten
“messed up.”  Sometimes, we may need to
intervene in terms of environmental factors, conditions, and situations not
directly involving relationships.  More
often than not, however, the need is to help the individual think through and
plan ahead for significant and important personal relationships.  The crisis will tend to be between parents
and children, husbands and wives, friends, employers and employees, and within
other relationships that have gotten out of hand.

As we are able to help the
individual get to a place where he has calmed down, slowed down, and is
beginning to plan ahead, we want to be sure to steer him along a helpful
course.  His tendency will probably be to
want to repair the messed-up relationship. 
Our understanding of relationships and of the relationship building
process encourages him to work toward a new relationship.  He needs to understand that everyone has such
problems, that everyone has relationships that fail, and that understanding why
a particular relationship broke down is not particularly helpful.  Instead, the emphasis needs to be on
beginning to build a new US
box, to begin the caring process. 
Interestingly, we are encouraging him to do as much as we have already
done with him.  We have built an US box that
tells him we will help and that we will continue to help until he is headed in
a productive direction.  We have tried to
help him with his life, building, meaning/valuing, and blueprint
processes.  Our final goal, then, is to
help him get to a point where he sees his own life and his relationship with
other people as an ongoing, ongrowing process that starts now and moves on.

As you relate to people in crisis,
respond to their crises, see things better, and withdraw from the crisis
relationship, you will probably experience a slight uneasiness and uncertainty
as to your effectiveness.  These
concerned but uneasy feelings reflect your having heard, your having
understood, and the very human reality that you really do care.  I am now at one of those uneasy points
myself, much like the one you experience after seeing a person in crisis,
carefully and caringly responding, and saying a little prayer in the hope that the
improvement will have some lasting quality. 
Has this book helped you to respond more effectively to crises in your
own life and in the lives of others or has it merely served to further muddle
the murky waters?  You can partly answer
this question by turning back to Mrs. A, Mrs. B, Mr. C, and Mrs. D in Chapter
1.  Go back to the beginning.  Try to listen closely to what these people in
crisis are saying.  They have initially
presented themselves and their crisis to you and are asking you for a
response.  Where will you start and how
will you proceed in responding to them?

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