When people think of emergency workers, I doubt the first thing they think of is therapists, but if you’ve been a therapist for a while, you know that we too play an important role in helping victims soon after a tragedy. After tragedy strikes, such as after the Boston Marathon bombings, the phone starts ringing almost immediately. It may be the Red Cross, City Hall, or some other organization. When you get that call, are you going to answer the call of duty or shy away from helping people who have never needed a therapist more in their life?
Whether you want to specialize in “disaster mental health” or not, it’s important that all therapists be trained in crisis counseling, critical incident debriefing, and psychological first aid. I never thought there would be a terrorist attack in Boston, but I was really happy that I had the training anyways and that when the calls started coming in, I was able to say “yes” and do my part. The fact of the matter is that disaster can strike anyone at anytime. It doesn’t have to be a terrorist attack. People can be severely affected by a hurricane, natural disaster, robbery, etc. Being able to help people when they most need it is one of the greatest gifts we can give people and society as therapists.
We all need to get continuing education credits, so why not have the next one you do be in crisis counseling or psychological first aid? The American Red Cross offers a free training from time to time. I imagine that in wake of recent events that they will start offering them again soon. Getting the proper training now will ensure that when the unthinkable happens, you’ll have the confidence to swoop in and help out in a way that nurses and firefighters can’t. Trust me, people will be grateful for your presence and you’ll be glad you did.