In a previous article, we examined how psychological first aid could help OH practitioners ensure the wellbeing of employees in crisis. In this article, Dr John Durkin looks at supporting employees who have experienced a traumatic exposure.
Occupational health practitioners frequently find themselves on the front line dealing with traumatised employees. In contrast to rushing in to manage trauma on behalf of those affected, Rutter (2012) takes Tehrani's (2011) view that empowerment rather than treatment is most likely to increase a worker's resilience. Empowerment is achievable through a structured and supportive conversation designed to reduce distress, where talking through the trauma with others can give the employee support, education and encouragement.
Training in crisis management, demobilising, defusing, debriefing and traumatic incident reduction is available through the Faculty of Applied Trauma Psychology, which is validated by the University of Middlesex and the Professional Development Foundation. For further details, contact Carole Ferro.
At an organisational level, a comprehensive strategy for dealing with an unforeseen crisis would also include the employment of critical-incident specialists. However, the professionals who might be deployed to meet the acute needs of an organisation's personnel are likely to play a lesser role in the response than the senior staff at the organisation. If managing trauma is to be dealt with through empowerment rather than treatment, what should those senior staff be doing in readiness for a crisis?
In this regard, there are a number of options available, including: psychological first aid (PFA)(Rutter, 2012); crisis intervention techniques such as defusing, debriefing and demobilisation (Everly, Flannery and Mitchell, 1999; Mitchell, 1983; Tehrani, 2004); and traumatic incident reduction (TIR)(Gerbode, 1988), an evidence-based approach amenable to non-mental-health professionals.
PFA relies upon social support of various types - the long-standing literature of evidence for social support in alleviating distress makes PFA commendable. Similarly, crisis intervention techniques enable peers within the