Crisis Intervention


This category provides general information regarding crisis intervention including but not limited to, planning, implementation and available resources that may be able to assist a client in a crisis situation.

Clarifying Information

Definition of a Crisis: A disruption or breakdown in a person’s or family’s normal or usual pattern of functioning. A crisis cannot be resolved by a person’s customary problem-solving resources/skills.

A crisis may be different from a problem or an emergency

  • While a problem may create stress and be difficult to solve, the family or individual is capable of finding a solution. Consequently, a problem that can be resolved by an individual or a family without outside intervention is not a crisis. Oftentimes, a problem may seem like a crisis to a family or individual under stress and not thinking clearly. Interventions that establish trust and provide reassurance, advice or a referral by the case worker may resolve such a problem.
  • An emergency is a sudden, pressing necessity, such as when a life is in danger because of an accident, a suicide attempt, or family violence. It requires immediate attention by law enforcement, CPS, or other professionals trained to respond to life-threatening events. If a situation can wait 24 to 72 hours for a response, without placing an individual or a family in jeopardy, it is a crisis and not an emergency.
  • Three basic elements of a crisis are: A stressful situation, difficulty in coping, and the timing of intervention. Each crisis situation is unique and will require a flexible approach to the client and situation.

Situations Which Can Lead to a Crisis

Everyone has experiences that make them feel upset, disappointed, or fatigued. When these types of feelings are combined with certain life events or situations, they often lead to mounting tension and stress. Five types of situations have been identified that may produce stress and, in turn, contribute to a state of crisis. Types of client crisis situations presented in the CSO are typically related to the following:

  • Family Situations - a child abuse investigation, spouse abuse, an unplanned pregnancy, a parent’s desertion, a chronically ill family member, and lack of social supports are examples of family situations that can create stress and crises.
  • Economic Situations - sudden or chronic financial strain is responsible for many family crises, such as loss of employment, eviction, no food, a theft of household cash or belongings, high medical expenses, missed child support payments, repossession of a car, utilities cut off from service, money “lost” to gambling or drug addiction, and poverty.
  • Community Situations - neighborhood violence, inadequate housing, a lack of community resources, and inadequate educational programs illustrate some ways the community may contribute to family crises.
  • Significant Life Events - events that most view as happy, such as a marriage, the birth of a child, a job promotion, or retirement, can trigger a crisis in a family; a child enrolling in school, the behaviors of an adolescent, a grown child leaving the home, the onset of menopause, or the death of a loved one can also be very stressful life events.
  • Natural Elements -crises are created by disasters such as floods, hurricanes, fires, and earth quakes, or even extended periods of high heat and humidity, or gloomy or excessively cold weather.

Worker Responsibilities

  1. CSO case workers and disability program specialists can have a major lasting impact on their clients' lives and assist other CSO staff by responding appropriately and promptly to client crises. CSO Financial Workers and WorkFirst Case Managers are to attempt to resolve crisis issues that relate to the assigned caseloads and programs. If necessary, CSO staff my consult with case workers and disability program specialists to resolve client-related crisis situations.
  2. The successful resolution of an emergent situation can do much to strengthen the case worker's bond of trust with their client, and set the stage for a cooperative and productive future relationship. When confronted with a client emergency, case workers and disability program specialists respond by doing the following:
    1. Take a quick inventory of the situation;
    2. Identify the type of crisis;
    3. Take action;
    4. Attempt to defuse situation and/or reassure the client;
  3. Once the situation is calm:
    1. Identify and contact available community resources in your area that can assist the client through the crisis
    2. Document events to the extent possible, maintaining confidentiality when required.
  4. Maintain your professional skills and resources:
    1. Identify and post information about available community resources. Keep that information available to all clients and staff.
    2. Seek additional training opportunities when available. Additional resources for Crisis Intervention Training include:


DOP -,

UW School of Social Work -

Crisis Clinic of Thurston and Mason Counties -