How Crisis Intervention Counseling Can Help With Different Types of Crisis

View all blog posts under Articles | View all blog posts under Clinical Mental Health Counseling

A crisis counselor helps a client while sitting on a couch.

An earthquake devastates a community, a teenager threatens suicide, a loved one’s depression becomes debilitating — crises such as these call for critical support from mental health professionals. With expert knowledge in responding to mental health emergencies, crisis intervention counselors can play key roles in bringing stability to challenging situations.

Those inspired to pursue a career in crisis intervention counseling can benefit from learning about different types of crisis management and how an advanced degree in counseling can prepare them for the role.

What Is Crisis Intervention Counseling?

Crisis intervention counseling supports people confronting challenging life events and mental health issues. Individuals going through transitions such as puberty, pregnancy, aging or the death of a loved one can experience intense and complex emotions that put them at risk for self-harm or make it difficult for them to function.

People may also need crisis intervention counseling after experiencing events that threaten their psychological, social and physical well-being, such as divorce, serious injury, mental illness and job loss.

Usually lasting only a period of weeks, crisis intervention counseling employs unique intervention techniques drawn from psychotherapy. These techniques aim to not only provide clients with emotional support, but also minimize the stress they’re experiencing and equip them with important coping strategies.

Crisis counseling starts with an assessment designed to determine the nature of a client’s mental health challenge and identify any immediate safety issues that may exist. Assessments can also uncover other health or social issues that may need attention.

Following an assessment, crisis counselors plan and deliver treatment with the goals of:

  • Lowering the intensity of emotional, behavioral and physical responses to the crisis to prevent the development of long-term mental health problems and additional harm to the person’s overall well-being
  • Helping individuals regain their pre-crisis levels of functioning
  • Strengthening and developing a client’s support network and coping skills

How Does a Crisis Intervention Counselor Help Manage Crisis?

Crisis intervention counselors work with clients who are experiencing extreme levels of mental distress. To help their clients work through challenges, crisis counselors employ various interventions that focus on leading clients toward recovery.

1. Helping Others Through Difficult Times

Crisis counselors have specialized training that prepares them to deal with a wide range of emergency scenarios. Crisis counselors use their specific knowledge of crisis management to step in and help when natural and human-made disasters occur in a community. They identify the most vulnerable community members and provide them with potentially life-saving mental health care.

For example, in the wake of a deadly hurricane, grief may leave survivors overwhelmed and unable to cope. Crisis counselors help soften the impact by giving clients the education and tools they need to begin the healing process.

Crisis counselors also intervene to help veterans, children and others who may have varying counseling needs depending on the tragedy or trauma they have experienced. For example, crisis counselors frequently help veterans recover from acute mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, which they may have developed while serving in war zones. In the aftermath of a school shooting, crisis counselors help children, parents and teachers deal with their overwhelming fear and anguish.

2. Providing a Unique Form of Treatment

While other types of counseling tend to focus on securing long-term well-being for clients, crisis intervention counseling has a more immediate focus. It concentrates on resolving any dangerous or potentially dangerous situations through short-term treatment designed to bring stability to the crisis at hand.  For instance, when treating a client who recently suffered severe injuries in an accident, a crisis counselor will assess the associated trauma to determine the immediate psychological damage and develop a short-term care strategy to prevent the trauma from causing further damage.

The short-term intervention offered by crisis management counselors serves to smooth the victim’s transition into the long-term mental health care services offered by therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists.

Crisis counselors leverage their knowledge of the effects of grief and loss to deliver calm, compassionate care in a nonjudgmental context. Face-to-face counseling sessions are the most common way crisis counselors meet with their clients. Crisis counselors discuss the situations troubling their clients, take notes and work with them over time to provide remedies. When it isn’t possible to directly meet with their clients, crisis counselors may also use voice and video calls to deliver counseling.

A unique counseling resource to help those specifically contemplating suicide or self-harm is the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) . Through this service, people experiencing suicidal thoughts can call in to reach anonymous counselors who can help them cope with the stress factors making them consider self-harm.

3. Building Rapport in a Community

Building rapport and trust relationships plays a vital role in effective crisis management. Clients in need of crisis intervention counseling often feel extremely vulnerable. They may also feel misunderstood and scared. This may make them reluctant to open up and trust others. For these reasons, it’s crucial that crisis counselors show their clients a great deal of empathy and reassurance.

Learn More About Crisis Intervention Counseling with an MA in Counseling

In all types of crisis management scenarios, crisis intervention counselors apply their unique expertise to assess clients’ needs and find the most effective solutions. With the right education, aspiring crisis intervention counselors can gain important insights into how trauma can take hold within a community, and the preventive steps that can stop crises from having a long-lasting impact on people’s mental health.

Learn more about how the Wake Forest University online Master of Arts in Counseling program prepares students with the advanced counseling skills they need to understand how people deal with grief, trauma and tragedy, making them strong candidates for rewarding careers in the counseling profession.

Recommended Readings

How to Improve Mental Health on a Daily Basis

What to Expect in Counseling Courses

What Is Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and Why Is It Important?


Counseling Today, “Crisis Counseling: A Blend of Safety and Compassion”

Houston Chronicle, “What Are the Responsibilities of a Crisis Intervention Manager?”

Verywell Mind, “How Crisis Counselors Help People Coping with Trauma”

Verywell Mind, “What to Know About Therapeutic Rapport”

WebMD, Guide to Psychiatry and Counseling