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CISD: Helping Responders Cope with Traumatic Events

On this episode, Stacy, Bonnie and David speak with Deputy Chief Bernie Meehan, a veteran of over 400 first responder debriefings. Our topic: Critical Incident Stress Management and Debriefings, and how a CISD/CISM debrief can kickstart the healing process.

The Critical incident stress debriefing (CISD) process is a tool to help people who are involved in an event that could have traumatic consequences. CISD is designed to help responders process the event to diffuse symptoms of traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression.  The organization providing the debrief services often spends about 2 hours doing the debrief.

The debrief can kickstart the healing processes, but it is not therapy.  It’s an opportunity for “universality”:  the experience of “I’m not the only one who thought that or feels this way.  So I’m not losing my mind”.  Peer sharing is the critical piece of the process.  A psychologist can say “Your symptoms are normal” but that pales in comparison to the impact of a peer who shares his/her reaction/thoughts to a critical incident.  That alone can help relieve the worry that the first responder is “mentally ill” or “losing his/her mind”.

We also answer: how do you find and activate a CISD team? What credentials should you look for? What are the best practices for a successful CISD/M session? Are any 2 CISD/M events the same? What is the ideal location and  size for a CISD/M, can they be too big or too small? What are the dangers of debriefing our own?