Personnel who have been providing psychosocial support to disaster victims need support themselves. Follow-up of personnel can occur in different ways:
Defusing takes place within the first few hours after the incident. Many are tired, so the session rarely lasts more than one hour. The purpose of the session is to create overview, reduce anxiety, increase the sense of community and provide strategies for coping.
Ideally, defusing should contribute to:
- Sorting of facts following the incident, helping personnel to get an overview and see their own effort in a bigger picture
- Creating an immediate understanding of the incident, reducing emotional distress and chaos
- Creating a greater sense of cohesion and community
- Informing about normal crisis reactions and providing advice for how to cope with these
Defusing should not involve:
- Violent and detailed descriptions of the incident
- Correction of cognitive errors
- Topics that trigger intense emotions
These issues should be avoided during defusing because they can contribute to sustaining of the immediate physical and psychological arousal, leading to persisting mental images and memories.
Psychological debriefing is conducted for a group of colleagues who have experienced a traumatic situation. Debriefing is a systematic review following particular steps. The leaders of the debriefing group should have experience with both the method and with group processes. This is to ensure that the review itself doesn’t become an additional trauma to the participants.
The objective is to create a common framework of understanding along a time axis, as well as reducing stress reactions. For staff who are going to continue working together after the incident, it is also important to encourage the following:
- Social support
- Increased solidarity
- Motivation to cope with the incident
- Looking ahead
Evaluation and education
When the incident is no longer fresh in the minds of those affected, a more thorough review is conducted, evaluating performance with a focus on learning. What worked well? What was challenging? What can be improved for next time? During this review, plans can also be evaluated and revised as necessary.