What Is A Competent Emergency And Crisis Intervention Professional?

By: Michael G. Conner, Psy.D, Clinical & Medical Psychologist

E-mail: Conner@OregonCounseling.Org
Phone: 541 388-5660

Revised:  May 21, 2014


Emergency and crisis intervention requires professionals who have specialized skills and experience dealing with crises.   Unfortunately most professionals lack the training and broad experience necessary to conduct competent crisis interventions.  The ability to assess and intervene during emergencies is not a routine skill.   Most doctors, counselors and psychotherapists have good intentions but don't realize how unstable, critical and demanding a crisis can become.  Incorrect assessment, missed opportunities, unskillful behavior and mistakes can prolong a crisis, create new problems, or turn an urgent problem into a dangerous emergency.  In the entire field of mental health, crisis intervention has the highest incidence of negligence and malpractice that results in significant harm.  Most of the negligence and malpractice in crisis intervention goes unrecognized by consumers and even professionals. 

Finding a competent and caring crisis intervention professional can be difficult. Very few practitioners identify themselves as a crisis intervention professional.  In fact, there are no licenses or certifications that truly certify a person is competent in crisis intervention.   The mere fact that a person provides crisis intervention services or is licensed in medicine, social work, counseling or psychology does not mean they are competent to deal with an emergency or an urgent  problem.  In addition, there is a growing practice in managed health care to employ people with lower qualifications and those proessionals who earn the lowest pay.  At one HMO in Portland Oregon there was a man with a Bachalor of Science degree in psychology who provided psychiatric services in both a hospital and emergency department.   The person helping you in an HMO mental health or hospital setting may not be a doctor and they may not even be licensed.  Many people working in crisis intervention have no formal crisis intervention training and may have only a bachelors or masters degree.  Some are not qualified for licensure.

The following are essential background and characteristics of competent crisis intervention professionals.

  • Has training in crisis intervention or emergency psychological services.
  • Can be reached 7 days a week and 24 hours a day if necessary.
  • Can arrange scheduled appointments for up to 3 hours or as frequently as 3 times a week if necessary.
  • Is available for phone contact on a daily basis if needed.
  • Has experience working in an emergency room, crisis or triage center.
  • Has experience providing routine as well as crisis services.
  • Has knowledge of medication use, side-effects, risks and benefits.
  • Is experience working with patients in a psychiatric hospital setting.
  • Is licensed in medicine, social work, counseling or psychology.