Critical incident stress debriefing

Caught off guard and “numb” from the impact of a critical incident, survivors of such an event often struggle to regain control of their lives to recover a sense of normalcy. If you have been impacted by a traumatic event that makes it difficult to carry out the functions of your day-to-day life, you may want to consider professional help from a psychotherapist.

An example of a “critical incident” may be a sudden death of a loved one or co-worker or even having witnessed a violent death. This incident could have been through the course of your work duties, if you happen to be a first responder, or as an ordinary civilian. Any time you experience a physical or psychological threat to your safety or well-being you could be experiencing a critical incident. For example, being held up at gunpoint, being a passenger in a horrendous vehicle accident, or losing a loved one through an accident are other incidents that fall under the category of “critical incident”. A critical incident can cause profound change and disruptions in your physical or psychological functioning.

Managing your reactions after a traumatic event in the company of a trained professional can be one of the best things you can do for your recovery.

It is important to consider that certain reactions and thought processes are to be expected with crisis survivors. Be on the lookout for flashbacks, or reoccurring mental images of the traumatic event, as well as experiencing a startle response. Some symptoms are readily detectable. Other negative coping responses are the excessive use of alcohol, tobacco and/or drug use. Your interpersonal relationships may become strained and difficult. It is important to debrief with a professional psychotherapist in order to better process the incident and lessen negative impacts in your life.