What is a Traumatic Experience?
A traumatic experience is an event in which an individual experiences, or witnesses an actual or threatened serious injury or death. The threat or actual occurrence may be to oneself or others. It is quite normal for people to experience emotional and physical after-shocks or stress reactions following a traumatic event. Sometimes these after-shocks appear immediately after the event. And sometimes it takes a few hours, days or even weeks before stress reactions appear. An individual's response may include intense fear, helplessness, or horror. Depending on the severity of the event, the signs and symptoms of these reactions may last a few days, several weeks or months, or longer. The way an individual copes with crisis depends on their own history and prior experiences. Sometimes these traumatic events are so painful that professional assistance may be necessary in order to cope with them.
What is Crisis Intervention?
Crisis intervention offers immediate, intensive, and brief professional assistance to people who have had a traumatic experience. The purpose is to help an individual cope and return to a previous level of physical or emotional functioning without being at risk of endangering himself or others. This short-term professional support attempts to deal with the immediate crisis or problem. Its prompt and focused interventions help prevent the development of a serious long term disability. Crisis intervention also encourages the development of new coping skills to help the individual function more effectively.
Types of Crises
People filter threatening experiences through their own unique ways of thinking and feeling. Depending on the trauma and one's "filter", some people may have less of a reaction while others may develop more severe symptoms. A number of crises may occur that can affect different groups of people like students, employees or society as a whole. At one end of the continuum these crises could include a labor strike, assault, physical injury, accident, death, suicide, robbery, homicide, and rape. Other events that affect a broader spectrum of people would include: fire, natural disasters, riots, terrorism and racial incidents. Crisis intervention offers the immediate help that an individual in crisis needs in order to reestablish equilibrium.
People at risk for secondary trauma are those other than the actual victims who are affected by the traumatic event. This may include friends, family and acquaintances of the victim or people who have simply heard about the trauma or crisis. People who help trauma and crisis victims are sometimes at risk for secondary trauma as well. This may be due to consistent exposure to human suffering and possibly feeling responsible for the safety of the victim.
Symptoms and Reactions
People whose normal lives are disturbed by a traumatic event find that their sense of security and safety is shattered. They also find that their responses to life and other people are either greatly exaggerated or no longer exist. The following are some of the symptoms that one might encounter:
Possible Emotional Reactions
Possible Physical Reactions
How to Cope Better
How to Help Family Members and Others Cope
For more information or an appointment, call Counseling & Psychological Services
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