Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) & Its Techniques

Last Update on October 13, 2022 : Published on October 15, 2022
Critical Incident Stress Management

Critical incident stress management (CISM) is an intervention that was proposed to be used during a traumatic event or in times of a natural or mental health crisis. The main aim is to reduce the amount of stress experienced during such tough times.

We all experience some level of stress in our lives. That stress and the stress we experience during some crisis or traumatic event are completely different from one another. Therefore the stress management techniques should also be different.

The intensity of stress experienced during a crisis or traumatic event is very high. Such kind of stress, if not managed in time can manifest into severe mental health conditions like Post-traumatic stress disorder, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, etc.

Critical incident stress management is an approach that caters to intense stress caused by some kind of crisis or traumatic event. Let’s get a better understanding of CISM…

What Do You Mean By Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM)?

Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) is an interventional approach that deals with people who have been a part of or witnessed a crisis or traumatic incident. Critical incident stress management techniques are majorly used in crisis intervention.

The initial stress and panic that an individual goes through being freshly out of a crisis or traumatic event are addressed and managed by the critical incident stress management approach. Moreover, it acts as an emotional first aid for people who can’t fathom what has just happened to them.

The interventional techniques of critical incident stress management are most commonly used in public places like schools, offices, community areas, or places where a traumatizing incident has just taken place.

Critical incident stress management is not to be confused with treatment or psychotherapy. It is just a coping intervention that can help people with the initial blow of a traumatic incident.

Examples Of Critical Incidents

  • Witnessing mass casualty,
  • Witnessing the death of someone you knew,
  • Witnessing a suicide,
  • Witnessing or experiencing abuse,
  • Losing someone while helping them during a crisis,
  • Witnessing a natural calamity,
  • Witnessing terrorist events, etc.

What Is Critical Incident Stress?

When you come out of a traumatic event there are hundred and more questions, feelings, thoughts, and emotions running through your mind. Most crisis survivors have a strong emotional response that is generated because of the stress they have just experienced.

That stress which you experience in the initial hour of surviving a traumatic incident is known as critical incident stress. Critical incident stress management strategies are aimed at reducing intense stress during the early hours of being traumatized.

Let’s look at some symptoms of critical incident stress;

  • Reduced concentration
  • Mental and physical exhaustion
  • Extreme sadness
  • Feelings of grief and guilt
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Easily angered
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fearful
  • Feeling on the edge
  • Social isolation
  • Confusion

Different Types Of Critical Incident Stress Management Techniques

Critical incident stress management always needs a plan. Depending on what intensity of trauma and stress the victim is dealing with, what type of CISM is to be used is selected. In some cases, you can use just one type and in some other cases, even a combination of different types of CISM is used.

Let’s have a look at all the different types of critical incident stress management interventions;

1. Debriefing: in this type of critical incident stress management technique all the people involved sit together and talk about what happened. They do this so that all traumatizing thoughts and feelings are released. This type is also known as critical incident stress debriefing.

2. Defusing: defusing is a much shorter version of debriefing. The de-stressing is done only for an hour or so within the initial hours of the traumatic incident or crisis.

3. Grief & Loss sessions: these sessions are structurally organized to cater to the feelings of grief and loss with the victims. It doesn’t help people understand and accept their feelings and emotions and become comfortable in expressing their feelings.

4. Crisis management briefing: these are meetings held to talk about the crisis and how one has to be prepared for the worst and what to do after the crisis. These briefings are generally given before, during, and after some expected crisis or calamity takes place.

5. Critical incident adjustment support: using this technique of critical incident stress management technique, the victims are provided with physical, emotional, and mental support after they have experienced a traumatic event.

That’s All Folks!

I hope you found this blog about critical incident stress management informative, interesting and helpful. Keep the symptoms of critical incident stress in mind so that you know when to reach out to the critical incident stress management team.  Do share this blog with your friends and family too.

Thanks for reading.

Take care and stay safe.

About The Author

Kirti Bhati

I am an English literature (major) and psychology (minor) graduate from St. Bede’s College, Shimla. Postgraduate in Clinical psychology from IIS University, Jaipur. She has published a Research paper on Music therapy in the military population and Workplace stress in a national seminar conducted by Fortis hospital (gurugram) and international seminar conducted by St. Bede’s College, Shimla, Respectively. Authored a dissertation work on ‘effect of social media addiction on the mental and physical well-being in adolescents’ Currently working at calm sage as a writer.

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