VISTAS Online is an innovative publication produced for ACA by Dr. Garry R. Walz and Dr. Jeanne C. Bleuer of Counseling Outfitters, LLC. Its purpose is to provide a means of capturing the ideas, information and experiences generated by the annual ACA Conference and selected ACA Division Conferences. Papers on a program or practice that has been validated through research or experience may also be submitted. This digital collection of peer-reviewed articles is authored by counselors, for counselors. VISTAS Online contains the full text of over 900 proprietary counseling articles published from 2004 to 2017.
Providing Mental Health Services to Clients in Crisis or Disaster Situations
Howard B. Smith
Theories of crisis intervention are often traced back to the Cocoanut Grove fire in Boston in 1942. The Cocoanut Grove nightclub was the scene of a tragic fire in which nearly 500 individuals lost their lives. Eric Lindemann treated many of the survivors and soon discovered several similarities in their emotional suffering and needs. Based on this discovery, he began to formulate a theory of normal grief patterns. Gerald Caplan worked with the Cocoanut Grove fire survivors also (Collins & Collins, 2005) and, added to that experience, was his work with families who found themselves facing crises at the Harvard Public Health Family Guidance Center where he and Howard Parad identified five elements that influenced the families’ ability to cope with crisis events. This ultimately led them to define the elements that constituted a crisis. Those five elements were that (1) the stressful event poses a problem which is, by definition, insoluble in the immediate future; (2) the problem overtaxes the psychological resources of the family, since it is beyond their traditional problem-solving methods; (3) the situation is perceived as a threat or danger to the life goals of the family members; (4) the crisis period is characterized by tension which mounts to a peak, then falls; and (5) the crisis situation awakens unresolved key problems for both the near and distant past (Parad & Caplan, 1960, pp. 11–12).