By Arlyn Norris
A patient arrives at the doctor’s office, hacking, sneezing complaining of congestion in the head and chest. The physician can see that the patient suffers from a terrible cold. In years past, many such sufferers expected the doctor to prescribe an antibiotic to help them get over their misery. But we have learned that antibiotics aren’t effective in treating a cold, since the cold is brought on by a virus, not a bacteria that would respond to antibiotic treatment. It is important to fit the treatment to the diagnosis.
When considering whether to use a crisis counseling approach to a problem that a person may present, it is crucial to establish whether the person is involved in a situational crisis. If they are, crisis counseling can offer very effective help because the individual is open to influence during a crisis. On the other hand, if the problem that the individual has encountered is something other than a situational crisis, another approach, including the possibility of referral, needs to be employed. So how can we identify whether we are dealing with a situational crisis?
Here is a series of questions that can help a pastor or other worker in the church determine whether a person or family is facing a situational crisis.
Has there been a recent onset of troublesome feelings and/or behavior?
A crisis is something that is recent in origin. It has begun in the last few weeks. It isn’t something that has been going on for a long time, although it may be related to ongoing problems. For instance, addictive behavior usually develops over a number of years. Nevertheless, if something new happens — the addict gets picked up for drunken driving, that may trigger a crisis.
Have the feelings and/or behaviors been getting progressively worse?
A crisis develops when a person realizes that his or her attempts at coping are not working, and they aren’t sure what else to do. People in crisis experience a breakdown in thinking as a result of physical or psychological overload.
Can the onset of these feelings and/or behaviors be linked to a specific external event? Something has happened; some event has occurred that has made a sudden and dramatic change in the person’s life. Their situation in life has changed in some significant way.
If the answer to these three questions is “yes,” then a crisis most likely has occurred. The most helpful response will be crisis counseling. Indeed, a person is usually more open to change and readjustment during a time of crisis.