Psychological intervention in emergency situations

Given the good acceptance of our previous article Learn psychological first aid with this practical guide, we bring these new tools that will allow us to know a little more about psychological intervention actions generally carried out in emergency situations.

It should be noted that although these are crisis situations closely related to stress, the characteristics of the situation make this type of work done in a different way from what happens in normal psychotherapy in consultation.

    Psychological intervention in emergency situations

    Before talking about the basic principles of psychological intervention in emergency situationsIt is necessary to establish the most likely contexts in which to implement these intervention guidelines. In general, they are as follows:

    • natural disasters like earthquakes, fires, hurricanes, floods etc.
    • Technological disasters, such as those caused by chemical, nuclear, etc. causes.
    • Terrorist action.

    • Traffic accidents with several victims.
    • Instability or mental crisis.
    • War conflicts.

    The principles of psychological care in the event of disasters and emergencies

    The basic principles of intervention in these contexts are:

    1. Protect

    It’s about making those affected feel safe and protected. To do this, you must activate the zones of:

    • Physical shelters, houses or shelters for victims and their relatives, Meeting centers, etc. Also spaces for speakers to rest, exchange views and coordinate.
    • Likewise, it becomes necessary set points for the media especially in emergency situations of a certain magnitude.

    2. Direct

    Driven by the necessary instructions for the tasks to be performed by the data subject. Remember that in the impact phase the victim may experience impaired ability to process information, so our help in this regard becomes essential.

    3. Connect with the victim

    To do this, we must use resources that facilitate reconnect with family and acquaintances, Sites that provide information including administrative information, etc.

    4. Intervene

    As we pointed out in the previous article, you must:

    • Guarantee the basic needs of victims, Such as: water, food, blankets, etc.
    • Make personal space easier.
    • Facilitate personal contact through conversation, active listening, empathy, etc.
    • Help find your family and friends.
    • Facilitate the duel if there have been personal losses facilitating the expression of emotion.
    • Helps control stress reactions.

    Strategies Used to Care for Victims

    In general, the intervention it includes different strategies useful in these contexts, Like now:

    • Social and family support.
    • Relaxation techniques, being the most used deep and diaphragmatic breathing in such cases.

    • Strategies for changing thoughts, focusing on guilt.
    • Behavior change strategies, Such as distraction.
    • Possibility of referring a specialist for a more specific intervention.

    The management of the duel

    One of the most frequent and painful interventions for victims is coping with the loss of a loved one (Or more) when the emergency occurs.

    In this sense and once the impact phase is over, the bereavement intervention is generally recurrent in the event of death. This intervention is performed on both affected members and family members.

    We can say that grieving is a normal emotional reaction to the loss of a loved one. This is a process that must be properly designed to avoid future problems. In this sense, William Wordem (1997) describes perfectly in his practical book The Treatment of Grief: Psychological Counseling and Therapy, the tasks the person needs to do to overcome and deal with grief properly. These tasks are four in number and must follow the following order, although sometimes tasks I and II are given together:

    • Assignment I. Accept the reality of the lossIn other words, the person painfully assumes and even with a certain sense of “unreality” that death has passed, there is no turning back.
    • Assignment II. Express the emotion and pain of loss.
    • Assignment III. Adapt to a medium in which the deceased person is not there.
    • Assignment IV. Continue to live.

    The complicated duel

    All these tasks they are usually done in the following months after death, Gradually and gradually. We even mean by normal periods those which reach two years.

    On the other hand, not overcoming all of these tasks can lead to a complicated or unresolved duel. In these cases, the person remains “anchored” in one of these phases for a long time (even years). The following events are expected:

    • Sadness.
    • Boredom.
    • Tired.
    • Incapacity.
    • Shock.
    • Anhel.
    • Relief.
    • Guilt and reproach.
    • Anxiety.
    • ** Loneliness. **
    • Insensitivity.
    • Physical sensations, such as: emptiness in the stomach, tightness in the chest, tightness in the throat, etc. *

    The difference between a normal and pathological grieving reaction will be marked by the time factor. So not being able to think about death a few days, weeks or months after death will be normal. We will not feel that this will happen ten years after death.

    To learn more about the subject, you can consult the distance learning course on psychological first aid that Psychological Training runs from its website.

    Bibliographical references:

    • Wordem, W. “Treating grief: psychological counseling and therapy.” 1997. Paid editorial.

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