There are several phases of critical incident stress management (CISM), all of which are important. Most CISM training programs will teach you that there are three main modes of counseling intervention to help someone cope with a crisis. They usually are defusing, debriefing, and follow-up which happen in that order and range from hours after the incident to days after. CISM is designed to address an incident that a first responder or military personnel might experience head-on in order to reduce the risk of long-term emotional trauma. These critical incidents can include but are not limited to: line of duty deaths, terrorist attacks, the suicide of a co-worker, or events involving children. Critical incident stress management training is designed for professionals such as firefighters, police officers and law enforcement, armed forces personnel, and EMTs, rather than victims of incidents themselves.

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Defusing is the first step a critical incident stress management specialist should take after a traumatic incident, and is incredibly important. Defusing should happen within hours of the event, before a person goes to bed, and should include only those who are directly involved with the event. Defusing can happen in a small group at the scene or in a separate meeting location.

During a defusing meeting, a peer support specialist will remind those involved that their feelings are perfectly normal – whether they are angry, sad, scared, or even if they feel guilty or responsible. After a peer support specialist helps to normalize the feelings the individuals might be having, the next step is to let those involved know about symptoms of PTSD that can set in immediately after an event, or take some time to show up. This can help an individual recognize how they are coping with an incident. After the specialist has normalized emotional responses and explained some common symptoms of traumatic stress, they should offer a “life-line” of sorts in the form of a phone number and an open invitation to call, day or night, should an individual in the group feel the need for immediate help or intervention. This can be a number of an on-call peer specialist, professional therapist, or another individual.

The goal of defusing is more than just telling people what is normal and what is not. It is designed to accelerate mental recovery after a traumatic incident, reduce the risk of developing PTSD by immediately extending emotional help, and to assess who in the group might need further resources and peer support. In a defusing room, it is important to remember that everyone there is your peer. Rank or status is not nearly as important as the shared experience.

To Learn More About CISM Training, Contact Peer Support Central

Peer Support Central offers training courses for first responders and military personnel where you will learn the best practices in critical incident stress management training, as well as peer support. These proven methods create an environment where first responders can open up about their experiences to those who share the same lifestyle, learn healthy coping mechanisms, and reduce the chance of developing PTSD and unhealthy coping habits. Get in touch with Peer Support Central today to learn more.