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Crisis Interventions Techniques and Why They Are Helpful

Read about Crisis Intervention Techniques and how they can be used to help people manage a crisis. Discover example worksheets you can use in your practice.

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​​Crisis Intervention Techniques
​​Crisis Intervention Techniques

Crisis Intervention Techniques are designed to help people cope with an immediate crisis, such as a traumatic event or another emotionally and physically intense scenario. By recognizing and addressing the needs of someone in distress, these techniques can protect individuals from harm and help them gain control over the situation.

In this guide, we'll discuss some of the most commonly used Crisis Intervention Techniques and how they can be applied to help people manage a crisis. We'll also provide example worksheets you can use to better support clients in need.

What are Crisis Interventions Techniques?

Crisis intervention is a solution-focused psychological treatment to help people manage and stabilize crises. It is often implemented within the first 48 hours of an individual's or group's experience of distress, trauma, or emergency. This intervention focuses on helping people identify their symptoms and behavior patterns, assess their current situation, and develop a plan to manage the crisis.

Crisis Intervention Techniques are varied and can be adapted for different crises. These include techniques such as reality testing, active listening, problem-solving, empathic responding, providing support, and offering resources. The goals are to help the individual or group recognize a crisis and intervene to minimize disruption, distress, and danger.

However, crisis intervention is not intended to be a long-term treatment, nor should it replace more comprehensive therapies. Instead, its purpose is to intervene quickly and provide support for the individual or group to return them to a more stable state.

Why are they helpful?

Crisis Intervention Techniques can provide individuals and groups in crisis with the necessary tools to manage their emotions and work through their difficulties. They can also be used to recognize warning signs of potential crises, enabling those at risk to take steps to prevent them from occurring.

Here are some of the other advantages of using Crisis Intervention Techniques:

Provide a space for people to discuss complex topics

Crisis Intervention Techniques can provide an opportunity to process and explore complex topics in a safe, non-judgmental environment. This allows people to talk openly and honestly about their feelings without fear or shame.

Encourage problem-solving

You can use these techniques to help individuals find constructive solutions for resolving their issues. By exploring different strategies and hypotheticals, those in crisis can often find new ways to approach their problems.

Reduce guilt or shame

Crisis Intervention Techniques may help reduce feelings of guilt or shame that can be associated with difficult topics. By talking openly and honestly about their issues, your clients may better understand their feelings and begin to take steps to address them.

Create better relationships

These techniques can also help to create more robust and healthier relationships between those in crisis and their support system. Through open dialogue and constructive feedback, individuals can learn to better communicate their needs and those of their loved ones, which can help create an environment of trust and respect.

Facilitate healthy decision-making

Crisis Intervention Techniques can assist individuals to make better decisions in difficult situations. By helping individuals to look at the pros and cons, weigh options, and explore potential consequences, they can gain a greater insight into their current problems and make more informed decisions.

10 Crisis Interventions Techniques and Exercises

Crisis Intervention Techniques are designed to be both proactive and reactive to provide the most effective support possible. Proactive techniques involve prevention and building resilience, while reactive techniques focus on the immediate stabilization of an individual in crisis. Using both approaches, people can more effectively reduce distress, develop coping skills, build social connections, and move towards wellness. 

Here are some techniques and exercises you can utilize to help clients in a crisis:

Active listening

Active listening involves giving undivided attention to the person in crisis and demonstrating empathy and understanding. It includes maintaining eye contact, nodding to show comprehension, and providing verbal or nonverbal cues that indicate genuine interest. Active listening allows clients to express their feelings and thoughts, fostering a supportive and non-judgmental environment.

Calming strategies

Crises often involve heightened emotions, anxiety, or panic. Calming strategies are Crisis Intervention Techniques that help individuals regulate their emotions and reduce stress. Examples of calming strategies include deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, visualization techniques, or engaging in activities that promote relaxation, such as listening to soothing music or taking a warm bath.

Safety planning

This technique is crucial when dealing with crises involving self-harm or suicidal ideation. It involves developing a comprehensive plan to ensure the individual's safety, identifying triggers, creating coping strategies, and establishing a support network. You can use safety planning to empower clients to take control of their situation and access the appropriate resources when needed.


During a crisis, individuals may feel overwhelmed and unable to see a way out. Problem-solving techniques help them break down their challenges into manageable steps and explore possible solutions. This can be done by encouraging brainstorming, evaluating pros and cons, and considering alternative perspectives. Problem-solving techniques promote critical thinking and empower individuals to find practical solutions.


This technique involves providing individuals with information and knowledge about their crisis. This can include explaining the common signs and symptoms associated with a crisis, teaching coping skills and self-care techniques, and providing resources and referrals for further assistance. Psychoeducation empowers individuals by increasing their understanding of their situation and providing them with tools to navigate it effectively.

Expressive therapies

Expressive therapies, such as art therapy, music therapy, or dance/movement therapy, can be effective Crisis Intervention techniques. You can use these strategies to give individuals alternative ways to express and process their emotions, thoughts, and experiences. Engaging in creative activities can promote self-discovery, reduce stress, and facilitate emotional healing during times of crisis.

Reality testing

Crises may distort an individual's perception of reality. Reality testing involves gently challenging and helping individuals evaluate their thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions. This technique encourages individuals to examine evidence and consider alternative viewpoints, promoting a more accurate understanding of the situation and reducing distress associated with distorted thinking.

Cognitive restructuring

Cognitive restructuring focuses on challenging and modifying negative or irrational thoughts contributing to crisis distress. It involves helping individuals identify and replace negative thoughts with more realistic and positive ones. By changing their thought patterns, individuals can reduce anxiety, improve coping strategies, and develop a more balanced perspective on the crisis.

Narrative therapy

This Crisis Intervention Technique can help individuals in crisis explore and reframe their personal stories and experiences. It involves identifying dominant narratives contributing to distress and collaboratively constructing alternative narratives highlighting the resilience, strengths, and positive aspects of the individual's life.

Social support networking

This technique involves creating a network of supportive people who can provide emotional support during difficult times. This may involve family members, friends, counselors, or even online communities such as social media groups. Social networking can help your client feel less alone, build their resilience and cope more effectively with the stress of a crisis.

5 Crisis Interventions Worksheets

Crisis Intervention Worksheets are interactive tools individuals can use to reflect on their thoughts, emotions, and strategies during a crisis. Here are 5 crisis intervention worksheets you can use to facilitate crisis intervention and support as part of therapy:

Emotional Regulation Worksheet

This worksheet provides a framework for individuals to identify their current emotions, explore the triggers that contribute to them, and develop coping strategies to regulate and manage them effectively. The worksheet may include prompts for deep breathing exercises, grounding techniques, or other strategies that promote emotional well-being.

Safety Planning Worksheet

This worksheet is designed to help individuals identify steps they can take if they find themselves in an unsafe situation. In addition to brainstorming safety strategies, the Safety Planning Worksheet may require individuals to create a list of emergency contacts for quick access or develop a plan for seeking medical attention and other support.

Thought Challenging Worksheet

A Thought Challenging Worksheet can help clients identify and challenge their negative or unhelpful thoughts. It may ask them to examine the evidence for and against each thought and summarize the facts contradicting their distorted perceptions. Individuals can increase self-esteem and develop healthier perspectives by recognizing and refuting irrational beliefs.

Problem-Solving Worksheet

Problem-solving worksheets are designed to help individuals develop realistic solutions to their problems. Such worksheets may ask individuals to brainstorm possible solutions, create a list of pros and cons for each option, identify potential obstacles, and plan how to take action. This type of worksheet can be an effective tool for helping people learn how to set realistic goals and take action to overcome their issues.

Coping Skills Inventory Worksheet

The Coping Skills Inventory Worksheet helps individuals identify their existing coping skills and develop new ones to manage stress and navigate a crisis. It prompts them to list their current coping strategies, assess their effectiveness, and explore additional coping skills they can adopt. The worksheet encourages individuals to broaden their coping repertoire and promotes self-awareness and self-care.

When to use Crisis Interventions techniques

Crisis Intervention Techniques are utilized when individuals are experiencing acute distress or are in immediate crises. These techniques provide immediate support, stabilization, and assistance to individuals facing overwhelming emotional, psychological, or situational challenges. 

Some scenarios in which you can employ Crisis Intervention Techniques include the following:

  • Suicidal ideation or self-harm
  • Acute depression or anxiety
  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Grief, trauma, or other psychological distress
  • Domestic violence, sexual assault, or other violent situations
  • Emotional and psychological crises

Crisis Intervention Techniques are powerful tools that can help individuals navigate difficult times and create more positive outcomes. However, it is important to remember that crisis intervention is just a part of the process. Once an individual is stabilized and their basic needs are met, ongoing therapy or other forms of mental health treatment can be explored to help them cope with underlying issues and learn better ways of managing their life.

Commonly asked questions

What are the most effective Crisis Intervention techniques?

The most effective crisis intervention techniques vary depending on the individual and their needs.

Who uses Crisis Intervention Techniques?

Many mental health professionals, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and counselors, use Crisis Intervention Techniques. Other individuals, such as teachers, law enforcement personnel, clergy members, and family members, may also use crisis intervention techniques to help someone in a crisis.

Are Crisis Interventions Techniques suitable for kids?

Yes, crisis intervention techniques can be used with children and adolescents. However, these techniques should be adapted to the individual's age and needs.

What are the risks of Crisis Intervention Techniques?

Crisis Intervention Techniques can be highly beneficial for individuals in a crisis. However, there are some risks to consider. For example, individuals may become overwhelmed and experience a traumatic reaction to the intervention. Additionally, individuals may become more agitated if they feel their autonomy is being removed.

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