From Crisis to Recovery:

Strategic Planning for Response, Resilience and Recovery

George W. Doherty, M.S., LPC


Rocky Mountain Region Disaster Mental Health Institute

This course meets the qualifications for 12 hours of continuing education

Recent years have seen an extraordinary number of major disasters, critical incidents and other events that have had major impacts on our world. The 2004 tsunami, hurricanes Rita and Katrina, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to affect millions of lives daily. Potential events such as Avian Flu pandemic, global warming and the threats of spreading unrest in the Middle East are concerns that weigh heavily on all. Resilience, recovery from crises and how to prepare communities, learn from past experience, and strategically plan for future events are all activities that involve the education, training and time of first responders and mental health professionals.


Natural and man-made disasters present challenges for first responders and behavioral health professionals. Crises can affect people on many different levels, including psychological well-being. Planning and coordination are important components of the response to crises, disasters, and critical incidents.


Some additional variables important in responding include cultural knowledge and sensitivity. We need to respond appropriately within a culture not our own, whether locally, nationally, or internationally. The purpose of a behavioral health plan is to ensure an efficient, coordinated and effective response to the behavioral health needs of the affected population during times of disasters and other critical incidents.



What is a Crisis?


In order for an event to qualify as a “crisis”, there must be some sense of disruption to one’s sense of balance in life; a failure of one’s usual coping mechanisms to re-establish equilibrium; and some evidence of functional impairment, such as an inability to concentrate; memory difficulties; sleep disturbances, etc. In a crisis, coping skills fail to re-establish a sense of balance and control in life. People can be at a loss as to where to turn for help.


Although the terms “crisis” and “emergency” may be used interchangeably in the context of counseling, it is useful to distinguish between the two (Chrzanowski, 1977). In psychodynamic theory, “crisis” refers to a turning point or a period when new demands on the ego can’t be met successfully by the usual coping mechanisms. At these times, powerful emotions, such as anxiety and guilt, are intense, and cannot continue for long. The possible outcomes of a crisis can be formulated in general terms as:


  • Return to the previous state


  • Growth process, with an increase in ego strength


  • Destructive process (i.e. suicide, homicide, assault) or the emergence of new psychopathology

Simulation of a pandemic flu outbreak in the continental United States,
initially introduced by the arrival of 10 infected individuals in Los Angeles.


After taking this course, participants will be able to:

  Identify how the community and individuals respond to and recover from disasters.

•  Define Strategic Planning and explain how it is helpful in mitigating and responding to disasters, critical incidents and other crises.

•   Identify and explain how disaster mental health professionals are affected by responding to disasters, critical incidents and other crises.

•   Identify the signs and symptoms of disaster induced stress and emotional trauma and how resilience mitigates outcomes.

•   Demonstrate how to use a number of stress reduction techniques.


is approved by the:
maintains responsibility for the program.



how it works

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Stress Background

Impact Of Stress

Disaster Work And Stress

Stress Management On The Job

The Stress Response: What It Is and What It Is Not

Managing Stress And Change

Stress Reduction Methods

Delayed Stress: What It Is And Who Does It Affect

Traumatic Stress, Self-awareness, And Self-care

Stress Management And Support For Disaster Mental Health Professionals

Effects Of Disaster On Mental Health Professionals

Disaster Phases For Workers

Stress Reactions Of Workers During A Disaster

Knowing When Stress Reactions Become A Problem

Phases Of Disaster: Related Behaviors

Types Of Mental Health Problems Following Disasters

Role Playing As A Training Tool With Workers

Tapping Strengths In The Individual And The Community

Interventions Following A Disaster

Post-disaster Intervention Strategies For Mental Health Problems:

Acute Phase

Support For Mental Health Staff In The Immediate Response Phase

Organizational Support For Mental Health Staff In

The Long Term Recovery Phase

Working With Disaster And Trauma Cross-culturally

Strategies For Improving Coping While On-The-Job

Defusing And Debriefing

Disengaging From The Disaster Assignment

Interventions During A Disaster

Interventions Following A Disaster

Some Characteristics Of Responders


Follow-up Referral To Mental Health Resources, Counseling

Psychological First Aid And Short-Term Therapy

Coping And Resiliency
Coping, Resiliency And Recovery

What Can Mental Health Professionals Expect

Recovery And Return To Equilibrium

Where Do We Go From Here?

What Is Strategic Planning?

An Example Of A Strategic Plan

Emergency Response And Recovery: The Role Of Behavioral Health

After Action Report: An Example

Teams, Teamwork And Leadership


Additional Resources


Excerpts from the course:

Some Rules For An Incident Debriefing Session


  • Confidentiality


   Confidentiality is essential.


  • Freedom of speech


   Anyone is free to remain silent if that is his/her choice, but

   everyone is encouraged to participate.


  • Speak about yourself


   Anyone who agrees to speak will speak only about him/herself. Hearsay is prohibited.


  • Respect others


   Do not relate details which could embarrass other participants.


  • Equality


   During the session, all participants are equal.


  • Psycho-education rather than therapy


   The meeting is not a therapy session, but is designed to help the

    participants return to their usual pace and recover their dynamic

    equilibrium as quickly as possible.


  • Respect cultural aspects


   The cultural aspect of a group must be taken into consideration.

   Certain traditions, beliefs and customs can influence the

   expression of emotions.


  • Expressing oneself during the session


   The practitioners are usually available after the session if

   necessary, but the participants are strongly encouraged to express

   themselves during the session.


  • Direct relation with the incident


   Other than certain exceptions, only the people who had a direct

   relation with the incident are eligible.


  • Pay attention to certain needs


   People who smoke can do so providing the other participants do

   not object.


  • No interference


   "Pagers", including those belonging to the group leaders, must be

   turned off or placed on vibrate.


  • Respect of the group's privacy


   Taking notes, or recording the session on tape, as well as the

   presence of media people are prohibited.


  • Pay attention to the silent participants


   Attention must be paid to the people who do not speak but who

   seem to be disturbed. They can be approached privately later on,

   in the event that they are simply individuals who are reticent to  

   express themselves in front of a group.

Cost of the 12 unit course is $132


George W. Doherty, M.S., LPC has held positions as counselor/therapist, Masters Level Psychologist (State of Nevada Rural Clinics), consultant, educator, disaster mental health specialist and is a former U.S. Air Force Officer. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Wyoming; President of O.Dochartaigh Associates since 1985; President/CEO of the Rocky Mountain Region Disaster Mental Health Institute since 1998 and is the Clinical Coordinator of the Snowy Range Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) Team. He has taught as an Adjunct Instructor at the University of Wyoming, Northern Nevada Community College, and Warren National University. He served as a USAF Officer, served 11 years with Civil Air Patrol (CAP. US Air Force Auxiliary) as Squadron Commander, Deputy Wing Commander, Air Operations Officer, and Master Observer. Certified Instructor with the Wyoming Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST).

Organizational memberships include American Psychological Association (APA . Associate Member), American Counseling Association (ACA), American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress (AETS), Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists (ATSS), Traumatic Incident Reduction Association (TIRA), Certificate of Specialized Training in the field of Mass Disaster and Terrorism, Wyoming Department of Health Emergency Preparedness Advisory Committee; Research Advisor and Research Fellow . American Biographical Institute (ABI), Editorial Advisory Board Member and Book Reviewer PsyCritiques (APA Journal). He is also a Life Member of the Air Force Association (AFA), Life Member . Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), Life Member . Pennsylvania State University Alumni Association, and is an Alumni Admissions Volunteer for the Pennsylvania State University. Recent publications include: .Crisis Intervention Training for Disaster Workers: An Introduction.; Editor and contributor for the Proceedings of Rocky Mountain Region Disaster Mental Health Conferences (2005, 2006, 2007). Served as Guest Editor for Special issues of the journal Traumatology on Disaster Mental Health (1999) and Crises in Rural America (2004); .Cross-cultural Counseling in Disaster Settings. - Austral-Asian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies (1999). Published reviews include:Understanding Oslo in Troubled Times; Responders to September 11, 2001: Counseling: Innovative Responses to 9/11 Firefighters, Families, and Communities; Genocide: A Human Condition? Stress Management, Wellness and Organizational Health., .Leadership Competency and Conflict.; Leadership: Lessons from the Ancient World - all in PsyCritiques. Conference Director for annual Rocky Mountain Disaster Mental Health Conferences 1999 -present.

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We do adhere to the American Psychological Association's Ethical Principles of Psychologists. Our courses are carefully screened by the Planning Committee to adhere to APA standards. We also require authors who compose Internet courses specifically for us follow APA ethical standards.

Many of our courses contain case material, and may use the methods of qualitative research and analysis, in-depth interviews and ethnographic studies. The psychotherapeutic techniques depicted may include play therapy, sandplay therapy, dream analysis, drawing analysis, client and therapist self-report, etc. The materials presented may be considered non-traditional and may be controversial, and may not have widespread endorsement within the profession. maintains responsibility for the program and its content.

All material included in this course is either in the public domain, or used with express permission.

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