Crisis Intervention

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Do you know what to do during a crisis? The crisis can be as simple as an overflowing toilet, or as perilous as receiving life-threatening health news with many other possibilities in between.

Here are a couple of definitions for crisis. A crisis is defined as a time when we are faced with some circumstance, news, or event that we have never been faced with before. A crisis can also include being faced with an event, circumstance or news that is similar to a previous experience, but our usual problem solving and coping strategies don’t work to solve the problem.

If you’ve ever had the unhappy experience of an overflowing toilet then you probably already know how to cope. But what if your usual strategies and problem solving steps don’t work? Now your toilet continues to overflow, pouring out more and more water so that your bathroom begins to flood. If you don’t know what to do besides what you have already done and you still are not having success dealing with the water and impending flood then you are in a crisis.

The Chinese symbols for our single English word crisis are two side by side symbols meaning opportunity and danger. In other words, a crisis is a potentially dangerous time AND a time where opportunities for change are most pregnant.


Normally when a person is faced with a problem that is not solved using their usual strategies, or a new problem needing some resolution and solution there is also an increase urgency to act quickly! This urge to DO SOMETHING NOW in fact can be counter-productive during a crisis. But it is hard for your logical mind to over rule you emotionally driven desire for quick action and positive results!

A crisis ends in one of three ways:

  1.               A person may be no better off, nor worse off once the crisis has resolve.
  2.              Or a person may be better off with improvement in herself, her life, or both once the crisis has resolved.
  3.              Or the quality of a person’s life may be worse following the crisis than it was before the crisis began.

Here are some simple (but not necessarily easy) steps to follow when you are faced with any crisis:

  1. SLOW DOWN! Take enough time to breath in and breath out for at least 30 – 60 seconds, telling your self to go slow. There are a few times and crisis when                       taking quick and immediate action is necessary. But there are far more problems         and crisis where there is enough time to go slower and slowly with more                           beneficial results and outcomes.
  1. Clearly define the problem. This includes clearly defining how the world would be if the problem was solved.

                                    What do you want? 

  1. List all steps you have already taken to solve the problem and have the world as you want it to be.

What are you doing now to get what you want? 

  1. Evaluate the effectiveness of these present problem solving strategies.

Is what Im doing working? 

  1. Brainstorm ALL possible additional solutions. Get help from wherever you can if you can think of no additional options.
  1. Choose the best options from the brainstorm list and make a plan to solve the problem and achieve your hope for results using other strategies and solutions.
  1. Evaluated the effectiveness of new plan.
  1. Repeat steps 5-7 until your problem is solved, or your crisis is resolved.

Aiming to resolve the crisis where you are at least as Mentally Happy & Healthy               as you were prior to the crisis is the minimal goal.

This simple (but not necessarily easy) process will help to solve many problems and resolve many crises. You can test this out by simply reviewing a recent problem that you solved or crisis that you handled. Aren’t these the very steps that you took?

Are you facing a present problem or crisis? Try following the above strategy and see if it actually is helpful.

There is one more blog to be written offering more ideas and help when dealing with a crisis or problem. This will include a few more strategies than this step-by-step process.

For now see if you can improve your Mental Health & Happiness by using your coping strategies to help decrease your upset enough to follow this process. Then follow these steps.

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