Systemic Crisis Intervention Strategies

It can be useful to study crisis and intervention in terms of two separate categories: individual, couple, and family crises, and systemic crises. One reason for categorizing these types of crises in this way is because strategies used for systemic crisis intervention are typically different from those used for crises affecting individuals, couples, and/or families. Systemic crises, by nature, affect large groups of people—entire communities in addition to the individuals, couples, and families within the communities. Moreover, the structures and/or services that support communities—law enforcement agencies, schools, health care organizations, places of employment, retail establishments—also may be compromised as a result of the crisis. For example, a large-scale natural disaster, such as a hurricane or a tornado, can literally destroy an entire town, leaving those who live there without shelter, without sources of food or water, and without any sources of financial income. Schools may be uninhabitable, hospitals may be incapable of treating an influx of patients, and transportation may be all but impossible. Even worse, general chaos may lead to an increase in crime without adequate resources to control it. Thus, crisis intervention strategies must be aimed at restoring safety, order, and the basic necessities of life to the affected areas as quickly as possible. In addition, strategies also must address less immediate but still critical needs of the community, such as rebuilding demolished structures, or long-term therapy for traumatized victims. Accomplishing such a variety of important tasks effectively requires careful planning and coordination across relief organizations and agencies. Human services professionals working on the front lines must be trained and ready to enact intervention strategies efficiently yet compassionately to large numbers of people.

Of course, the aftermath of a natural disaster is just one example. Other types of systemic crises do not necessarily result in such large-scale physical destruction, but all present size able challenges that require comprehensive, organized, strategic interventions. Disease epidemics, an incidence of violence at a school, a hostage situation, a human-made disaster such as a hazardous waste leakage or train derailment, or a terrorist attack are just a few examples of other types of systemic crises requiring targeted intervention strategies.

To prepare for this Discussion:

  • Read Chapter 13 in your course text, Crisis Intervention Strategies, as well as the article, “School-Based Suicide Prevention With African American Youth in an Urban Setting.” As you read, note specific crisis intervention strategies that might be used in response to school-based crises.
  • Read Chapter 17 in your course text, Crisis Intervention Strategies, paying particular attention to specific intervention strategies that might be used in response to different types of natural and human-made disasters.
  • Read the article, “Collaborative vs. Adversarial: Relationship Between the State and Civil Society in Facing Public Disaster: The Case of Hong Kong in the SARS Crisis,” focusing on specific intervention strategies that might be used to address public health crises.
  • Select and then reflect on one systemic crisis (e.g., school-based, crisis/hostage situation, natural or human-made disaster, public health) that has directly affected your community. Consider which crisis intervention strategies you might have used if you had acted as a human services professional during this crisis.

With these thoughts in mind:

Do a brief description of a systemic crisis (e.g., school-based, crisis/hostage situation, natural or human-made disaster, public health) that has affected your community.* Then with the knowledge that you have gained this week, explain at least two crisis intervention strategies you might apply to this particular crisis and why. Be specific.

*If your community has not been affected by a systemic crisis, select a community with which you are familiar that has experienced such a crisis to use for this Discussion. Do not select communities affected by Hurricane Katrina or other such widely publicized systemic crises.

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