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Part I Crisis Intervention

Chapter 1 People in Crisis


Mrs. A is crying, and her voice quivers as she talks.  “I guess what really got me was that when I got home he was there.  He was still up, and he said he had to get some sleep.  I said, ‘All right,’ and asked him if I could talk with him.  He said he didn’t want to go to sleep in bed, but wanted to sleep on the couch.  I said, ‘All right, if that’s the way it has to be.’  I said, ‘Isn’t there any chance at all for me?’ He said no.  He keeps asking me why I’m making it hard.  I told him whatever he decides, I’m not going to stand in the way.  I told him that I wanted him—I was honest—that I didn’t want to lose him, but if he decided that he wanted her or if something fell through with her and he still didn’t want me, I could accept it.

“He said, ‘Even if it fell through and I came back to you, I’d probably think about her the rest of my life.’ And I said I could even accept that.  I know I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and I just didn’t realize things are as bad as they are.  Whenever I thought things were bad, he’d say things are okay.  I’d say, ‘But they are not for me.’ But he’d always say they are going fine for him.  I guess I just didn’t understand.

“I wanted to talk to him.  I wanted to know if I had a chance.  I told him that I thought he really didn’t know me, and I thought I ought to have a chance with him like she has.  I thought I’d have a chance to be myself around him, and he said he’d give me a chance, but that didn’t mean that there is a chance for our marriage to work or that he would want me back.

“He slept on the couch, and I went into the bedroom.  It just—it hit me all at once.  I have to do something.  It hurts too much.  I can’t stand it.”

Mrs. B is talking in a very matter-of-fact way, almost as if she were talking about someone else.  “My husband still has a lot of doubts about things.  He still feels like he can’t trust me.  I don’t feel like I can go back to him as long as he feels that way.  Yesterday he said he still has his doubts about whether things are going to work out for us or not.  I really tried to show him I mean what I say, but it doesn’t seem like anything I’ve said or done helps matters any.

I don’t know what’s going to happen to the kids.  I’m getting to where I can’t stand them, especially the youngest one.  It’s the way he cries all the time.  I feel like I could smash in his head sometimes.  It’s terrible.  I think they should take him away from me before I really do hurt him.

“I see their daddy every day, but my mother says he is just using me.  I suppose he is, but I don’t know what else to do.  I need some attention, too.  Mother thinks I should tell him he has to stay away and I should just stay home and be with those kids.  He gets done at the office late, and I wait for him and go for a drink.  I don’t really care about it—I just do it to please him.  I think he is getting a drinking habit that I’m not really crazy about.

“For me, I’ve been thinking a lot about what to do.  It’s all on me—him, the kids, my mother.  It’s too much for one person.  At least it’s too much for me.”

Mr. C is quite tense and talks quite rapidly, with a cutting quality to his voice.  “Well, I’m about ready to give up.  It’s like this.  I can’t find a higher-paying job, and the job I have now I got sick at yesterday.  I had to go home.  I had a splitting headache.  Things are beginning to stack up on me.

“I’ve been working my tail off, and now my daughter is running with some white boy.  I’ll kill that son-of-a-bitch if I catch him messing with her.  I was having a drink at a bar the other day, and I saw this white man with his hand and mouth at this black girl.  I asked him to lay off, and he asked if I wanted to fight.  I broke my hand on his face.  I think I’m cracking up.  I don’t know what’s going on.  I’m losing it; God help me!”

Mrs. D is talking quite slowly, seems exhausted, and has a quality of futility and despair.  “I don’t feel like there is any relationship left.  I think that over a period of time it’s built up to where it’s reached a breaking point.  It just got to where I felt like I was completely responsible.  He wasn’t any help to me.  He was satisfied with things like going to work on his race car, and when he came home, he was too tired to do anything for me or to do what I wanted to do.  When I went back to work, I told him that I worked as many hours as he did; but he always worked harder than I did, according to him.  He was always too tired to do anything with the children.  Things are left for me to do.  I felt the complete responsibility, and he just didn’t want to help.

“One night last summer, he woke me up in the middle of the night and told me about these hang-ups he has and the stuff he has been doing.  I know he thinks about being a girl sometimes and wants to dress up in my clothes when we have intercourse.  He said that when I was at work he had been putting our little girl to bed early and then dressing up in my clothes and “taking care” of himself.  He got to the point where he didn’t like to be home alone.  He’d get a buddy and go drinking while I was at work, leaving our little girl at home by herself.

“He finally broke down and told me that he had been picked up by the police on suspicion of having drugs.  He’d been drinking and had a fifteen-year-old girl in the car.  He’d picked her up, but he got off lucky because the police thought she was his sister.  I told him, ‘Okay, you need to get help; this is something you can’t just get over.’ He said he’d just fight it on his own, that he could overcome it.  He said we didn’t have the money for help, and I told him I’d work it out to cut corners as long as necessary to get him help.  He refused, and so we sent on as before.  This situation was irritating to live with.  Several times I asked him to change jobs, and again I asked him to get help.  Nothing I could do would open his mind.  I finally said, ‘Okay, I’m going to get a divorce.’

“It’s gotten me to the point where I don’t care anymore.  I feel he needs help.  If I can help him, as a person, I feel like I ought to go back and help him.  He says he can’t live without me, and I’m afraid he might try something desperate.  If he tries to kill himself or something, it would be my fault.  That’s like it is, but I’ve lost all love and respect—I’ve just lost all feeling—for him.

“When he is home, as soon as he comes in, I start feeling tense and shaky.  When I’ve asked him to get help for my sake, it didn’t mean enough to him—but I feel it’s too late for me.  I don’t know what to do.


Mrs. A, Mrs. B, Mr. C, and Mrs. D are each caught up in a personal crisis.  Suppose you were the emergency room physician who treated Mr. C’s hand when he broke it in the barroom fight; while you were working on his injury, he started to tell you about his worries and difficulties.  Remembering Mrs. D’s husband and the fifteen-year-old girl he had picked up, how would you have helped the girl’s parents if you had found out she was not Mr. D’s sister and had to tell them about her escapade?  Suppose you were a child welfare worker and had received a call from Mrs. B during one of those times when she was having intense, negative feelings toward her child.  Or perhaps you were Mrs. A’s best friend, the one person she could call at 2:00 A.M., when she ran to the bedroom.  How would you be able to help?

Mrs. A is apparently having serious marital difficulty.  She and her husband do not have a very good relationship and seem to have difficulty communicating with each other.  In addition, Mr. A is, at least emotionally, involved with another woman and appears to feel alienated from Mrs. A.  She, in turn, feels frustrated and cut off from her husband.  There is a sense of futility and hopelessness in what she says.  She feels she has to do something.  Will she try to kill herself; strike out at her husband or at his friend; run to her family or friends; or become extremely depressed, not eat, and withdraw?  At this point, she chose to talk to you.  If you are able to help, she will develop a way of dealing wit her immediate situation.  If not, her anxiety and tensions may push her into some undesirable behavior or situation.

Mrs. B is separated from her husband, although she sees him every day.  Apparently, something happened to cause him to lose his trust and faith in her.  She seems to want to reestablish a good relationship with him but is unsure about his feelings and intentions.  She is getting a good deal of pressure from her mother, is concerned about her husband’s drinking, and seems especially apprehensive about her feelings toward her child.  Should she stay away from her husband or continue trying to work things out with him?  How justified is her concern about her husband’s drinking?  How should she deal with the criticism and pressure from her mother?  How can she better cope with her children and with her intense feelings of anger and frustration?  She has said to you, “Help me!”  What can you do to help?

Mr. C is upset about several things.  He is having difficulty at work and is finding it hard to cope with his financial and family responsibilities.  In addition, he is angry about his daughter’s relationship with her boyfriend and would like to take his anger out on the boy.  It also appears that he is quite upset about the relationships between white men and black women in general.  We know that he has a broken hand from hitting a man in a bar.  He feels very agitated and confused and is somewhat desperate.  This anger may lead him to actually hurt his daughter’s boyfriend, or he may get into another fight.  We can see that his frustration and anger are also affecting his work and could lead to his walking off the job or doing something else equally destructive.  He has come to you.  What will you do to help?  If you are successful, he will be more able to deal with his angry feelings, and perhaps he will develop a better perspective about his life situation.  If not, he is likely to take out his anger on himself or on someone else.

Mrs. D seems trapped between her feeling that she would like to get away from her husband and her fear that he might hurt himself if she were to leave.  She is upset, angry, and confused about many of his attitudes, especially about his unusual behavior.  She seems to feel somewhat overwhelmed by all the confusion and responsibility.  She has repeatedly tried to work things out with him and also has tried to get him to accept outside help.  She seems to feel that the relationship is hopeless and, in fact, as if “there is no relationship left.”  If she just stays away from her husband, will he get worse, start harassing her, hurt himself?  If she keeps trying to work things out with him, will their relationship improve, get worse, or will things just go on as they have in the past?  She is asking you to advise her, tell her what to do, come up with a solution to her problem.  Will you be able to help?

As you develop an understanding of the crisis intervention process and acquire skills and experience in crisis intervention, you will be able to help with crises like the four discussed above.  You will be able to understand the conflicts involved in the interaction between the individual and the situation.  You will learn to focus on the crisis, assess the individual and the situation, and effectively intervene in a way that leads to the individual being able to deal with his or her life situation in a reasonable and effective way.  Help is only helpful it if helps.  Your help will help.

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