You are here: Home > Complete Preparedness Library > Disaster & Emergency Resources > Crisis Counseling and Disasters / Mental Health Resources

Crisis Counseling and Disasters / Mental Health Resources

Disasters come in many forms depending on the area of country that you are in. Floods, fires, tornados, hurricanes, snow or ice storms are some natural disasters that can occur. Other incidents can be explosions, white powder incidents and nuclear reactor accidents.

You may never be in the situation where you have to comfort someone but it will be useful to know what to do if you are. There was lots of need for crisis counseling and comforting during Katrina and 9-11. Even though you may not be exposed to an incident that is that traumatic, you may be involved with a friend or family member that has an accident or loses their house to a fire.

Disaster counseling is necessary during and after a disaster occurs. Some people will have a difficult time recovering because of the disruption in their lives. It may be helpful for you to recognize some of the signs of a person in crisis and have a few tips on how to help them cope.

Traditional Mental Health Practices are Often Long Term

  • Office based
  • Diagnosis and treatment focused
  • Examines content
  • Encourages insight and past life experiences that may influence current problems

Crisis counseling is Used for Short Term Incidents

  • Home or community based
  • Focus is on coping skills
  • Validates the reactions to the crisis as valid
  • Accept content at face value

Even though you are not a professional you may be called on to help until a professional can get to the site or you can get the person in crisis to a professional. It will all depend on the type of disaster that has occurred. Some important aspects to remember are the following:

  • Be a good listener
  • Establish a rapport
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Stay calm
  • Listen actively
  • Allow silence
  • Nod your head, say uh-huh or use caring facial expressions to let them know that you are listening
  • Paraphrase
  • Reflect feelings
  • Allow expressions of emotions


Do Say

  • You are not going crazy
  • It wasn’t your fault
  • You did the best you could
  • It is understandable that you feel this way
  • These are normal reactions to a disaster

Don't Say

  • It could be worse
  • I know just how you feel
  • You need to get on with your life
  • You can always get another pet/house/car
  • It’s best that you stay busy

Saying the things in the don’t list minimizes their feelings and they may feel that their feelings are discounted and that they are overreacting.

For more information:

Follow this link Community Emergency Response Teams for more information and to find a team in your area.