Psychological Assistance In Emotional Crisis

Faced with emotional crises, it is necessary to intervene in the most effective way so as not to chronify the problem.

Although it is momentary and temporary in nature, the emotional crisis usually leaves consequences in its wake, after which it is necessary to implement an action plan that can combat the discomfort caused by the traumatic event.

Therefore, it is important to know the main elements of a psychological assistance program in order to cope with emotional crises. Specifically, it becomes a priority to identify the characteristics and objectives that effective care should have, the different care models as well as the levels of intervention in crisis.

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Characteristics and objectives of the psychological intervention 

It is necessary to know that any action that is focused on the treatment of an emotional crisis must meet three fundamental conditions: be carried out “in situ”, be immediate and create confidence in the patient:

Intervention “in situ”

The emotional crisis must be treated where it has occurred. Only in very special cases will internment be justified, but it should always be carried out in a hospital close to the relatives of the affected person.


Every crisis must be addressed at the moment it occurs. During the emotional crisis, the affected person shows a great need for help and is more likely to receive full attention to achieve a change. Any crisis that is allowed to mature makes the intervention process difficult, hindering the search for a positive solution. It is necessary to mention that a problem cannot be addressed three months behind schedule in relation to when it occurred.

Build trust

The patient must be clear from the beginning that the objective of the intervention is none other than to improve their quality of life.

The objectives in the action before the emotional crisis

If the crisis treatment intervention meets the above criteria, the chances of success go up a lot. It is time to point out the objectives to be pursued when implementing the action plan; the most significant are these:

  • Prevent the crisis episode from becoming chronic and, consequently, prevent the request for more expensive treatments as well as traumatizing ones. 
  • Restore emotional balance. It is intended to achieve, at least, the level of mental health prior to the emotional crisis. It is necessary to emphasize that what was not had (emotional balance) could not be lost, and consequently, it cannot be recovered. 
  • Immediate relief of the anguish experienced through the verbalization of irrational feelings or attitudes of the patient. In this way, it is possible to neutralize the anguish generated and make change possible. 
  • Guide the socially disadvantaged subject on the possible social and institutional resources to which he can resort if he is in a state of abandonment.

Assistance models for crisis intervention

The human being is a bio-psycho-social entity, so his needs are inclined towards one of those areas and, therefore, the crisis that originates may have its epicenter around the biological, psychological or social dimension. Therefore, it will always be necessary to define which area of ​​the patient is the one that needs attention.

For example: in a suicide attempt due to drug intoxication, first it will be necessary to know the biological or somatic repercussion of the event presented (need or not for gastric lavage, etc.), then an analysis will be carried out about the elements and / or psychological schemes of the individual (emotions, motivations, etc.) and finally the work or family influence that this suicidal behavior may have will be taken into account.

Thus, the emotional crisis can be treated from different perspectives or models, which can be summarized in a triple approach: intervention directed to the conflict, to the person as a whole or to the system.

1. Conflict-oriented model

It suggests that the help provided must be immediate and directed fundamentally to the conflict itself; Through this approach , references to unconscious elements will be avoided, taking into account only the “here and now” as well as the possible ways of solving the “current problem” that has caused the crisis: drug intoxication in a suicide attempt, abandonment of the home, emotional breakup, etc.

2. Person-oriented model

In the intervention, priority will be given to the most cognitive aspects of the affected person: motivations, emotional repercussion of the event, links with the event, etc. In that crisis that has predominance in the biological dimension, the psychological and social incidence that all somatic disease entails will not be neglected.

3. System-oriented model (family or partner)

The family (or the couple) is considered, then, as a unit of health and illness at the same time and, therefore, it is a fundamental element for the treatment of the affected person.

Levels of psychological intervention

Regardless of the intervention model that is being used with the patient (whether focused on the conflict, the totality of the individual or the system) and the area (biological, psychological or social) in which it is acting, it is possible to distinguish three levels different help for emotional crisis:

First level of help 

It is practically the first moment of the intervention; corresponds to the “impact phase” of the crisis. Depending on the content and cause of the problem, the psychological, social or biological aspect will be priority.

This level is also called “first psychological aid” or “emergency aid” ; it is characterized by being a brief intervention (from a few minutes to a few hours); the main objective is containment and also, provide support, reduce mortality (avoid suicide) and link the person in crisis with the possible external aid resources available.

The first level intervention can be carried out anywhere (patient’s home, health center, shelter, street, hospital, etc.) and by any aid agent (parents, teachers, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, etc. .).

This first level of help can be carried out from pharmacology (through anxiolytics or  antipsychotics ) or through active listening, without overlooking the possibility of the patient spending a night or a 24-hour hospitalization.

Second level of help 

This stage begins when emergency assistance ends (first level of assistance). This intervention is not limited only to restoring the balance lost due to the impact of the traumatic event ; At this level, it is prioritized to take advantage of the vulnerability of the emotional structures of the subject, especially those that accompany the crisis, to help establish an emotional balance while creating other more functional psychological structures.

The duration of this intervention is several weeks (10-12 weeks approx.) And performed by specialists.

Third level of help

In general, the two previous levels of help are sufficient to ensure that the individual, using his own resources (psychological, social, etc.) can achieve a psychological improvement. However, sometimes long-term treatment (psychotherapy in conjunction with drug treatment) may be necessary to reinforce the gains made and prevent possible relapses.

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