Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD)

Critical Incident Stress Debriefing is a form of psychological “first aid,” designed to assist in the processing of exposure to trauma.

As such, CISD is most effective if administered within 72 hours of the initial trauma event.

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Evidence suggests that critical incident stress management programs can be effective in reducing the negative psychological aftermath following a broad array of potentially traumatic incidents. Debriefing provides individuals involved with a critical incident an opportunity to process the event and reflect on the impact of the trauma.

CISD also involves diffusing, a process through which affected individuals are provided an opportunity to vent thoughts and emotions related to the traumatic event.

CISD is conducted in small, structured groups, often with individuals who have all been a party to the same traumatic event. These can be followed by individual sessions and follow-up engagement with other support services.

What is a critical incident?

A critical incident is any event that can be emotionally jarring and traumatic, such as a physical or psychological threat to the safety or well-being of an individual, community, or business. A critical incident can involve any situation or occurrence that results in a dramatic, distressing, or profound change or disruption in their physical or psychological function. Critical incidents can take many forms.

Critical incidents which can benefit from CISD intervention can range from:

  • natural disasters
  • death
  • crime
  • domestic violence
  • chronic workplace stress
  • layoffs

What are the benefits of CISD?

When conducted shortly after the critical incident, CISD can reduce the disruptions (both psychological and professional) that can follow a critical incident. For individuals, CISD can help diminish the psychological fallout of a critical incident, including negative emotional responses. CISD can even lessen or prevent resorting to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as excessive drinking, smoking or drug use.

CISD can provide benefits for healthcare workers following patient adverse events, helping them to process the trauma which, if left unaddressed, can affect these workers both personally and professionally.

CISD also provides benefits to organizations. CISD can benefit employers by diminishing the disruption in worker productivity following a critical event, while providing employees with a meaningful form of support. Critical incident stress management programs have been shown to provide meaningful return on investment ($7 for every $1 spent) and can reduce worker use of sick leave and other benefits by up to 60% following a critical incident.

CISD also has legal benefits: it can satisfy OSHA requirements and even reduce litigious responses to critical incidents.

Who can benefit from CISD?

CISD is appropriate for any individual or group that has experienced a critical incident.

These can include:

  • first responders
  • emergency workers
  • public safety personnel
  • healthcare professionals

Indeed, CISD was first developed and deployed for these groups. However, CISD is also appropriate for:

  • rape victims
  • abused spouses and children
  • stalking victims
  • individuals who’ve been exposed to natural or man-made disasters such as hurricanes, fires, workplace violence, or industrial accidents.

If you think that you, a loved one, or an organization can benefit from CISD, contact Nancy Hilsenrath, LCSW, CASAC, SAP.

Nancy Hilsenrath LCSW, CASAC, SAP

Nancy is currently offering therapy sessions through Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime to make healing treatment accessible to all amidst challenging times.

(718) 551-2777  EMAIL NANCY TODAY.

West Hempstead, NY, Douglaston, NY, Hewlett, NY