What is a Crisis Intervention and When is it Appropriate?

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Addiction impacts the lives of millions of adults in the United States. Living with addiction has many challenges. Addiction can negatively impact people’s mental and physical health and often prevents people from having a healthy social life. In addition to affecting people’s day-to-day lives, addiction can also prevent people from managing a crisis in healthy ways.

A crisis can be any event that is too difficult for someone to handle. It could be an illness, mental health condition, a traumatic event, grief, a natural disaster, or any other stressful occurrence. A crisis is stressful for anyone, but for people struggling with addiction, it could lead to a relapse. Relapsing occurs when people start using substances after a period of sobriety. Many people who relapse need to complete addiction treatment or engage in other addiction support programs. It can be discouraging or even dangerous to relapse after abstaining from drugs or alcohol for a period of time.

The goal of crisis intervention is to address the immediate and long-term needs of a person who is in crisis to prevent a relapse, hospitalization, or other escalating interventions. Understanding what happens in a crisis and what interventions are available can help you know what to do if you or a loved one is experiencing a crisis and need help to avoid a relapse.

How to Tell if Crisis Intervention is Necessary

A crisis can be any event that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope in healthy ways or function well in their daily life. When people experience a crisis, they may have a range of symptoms, emotions, or behaviors that include:

  • Hopelessness
  • Poor concentration or memory
  • Denial
  • Isolating
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Self-medicating
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Changes in appetite or sleep

Regardless of the cause of the crisis, people will experience a lack of balance or feel unable to cope with the stress they’re under. Crisis intervention is necessary to help people gain back their sense of balance, manage the crisis in healthy ways, and make a prevention plan for the future. Without an intervention, people may have a relapse, require treatment, or even hospitalization.

What Happens During a Crisis Intervention?

The primary goal of crisis intervention is to connect the person in crisis to professional support in the community. This allows the person to get the immediate help they need to prevent an escalation of their crisis, increase their coping skills, and get them set up with other community support that can help them avoid future crises. For people living with addiction, crisis interventions are often performed by addiction counselors or other substance abuse treatment professionals.

Generally, the first step of crisis intervention is an assessment. During this initial contact, the counselor will interview the person in crisis to obtain a personal history. Their goal is to determine what caused the crisis, how the crisis is affecting their ability to function in their daily lives, and to identify their history of crises.

The counselor may also perform a social or cultural assessment to determine the severity of the crisis and the level of stress the person is experiencing. This allows the counselor to effectively triage the person and assist them in getting the immediate and long-term help they need to manage their current crisis and prevent them in the future.

Understanding the Seven-Step Crisis Intervention Model

A crisis can be destabilizing. The goal of a crisis intervention counselor is to assess the person’s crisis, resolve it, and prevent the need for escalating interventions like hospitalization. A common model of crisis intervention is the seven-step model. In this method, the intervention counselor or team takes the following steps:

  1. Plan and perform an imminent danger assessment to determine if the person is in immediate physical danger.
  2. Make meaningful psychological contact and begin to develop a relationship and rapport.
  3. Identify current problems, including what lead to the current crisis.
  4. Help explore and identify emotions and feelings about the crisis.
  5. Identify or develop healthy coping mechanisms and resources to help manage the crisis.
  6. Develop an action plan to restore functioning.
  7. Make a follow-up plan, including appointments for more support.

When the person experiencing a crisis is struggling with addiction, a crisis intervention plan will usually include some sort of addiction recovery support. This could include addiction counseling, attending recovery support groups, or returning to addiction treatment.

Find Help for Yourself or a Loved One Today

If you or someone you love require crisis intervention in New Jersey, reach out to the staff at New Jersey Addiction Intervention. We offer addiction counseling and intervention services that can help re-stabilize people in a crisis and help them avoid a relapse.

In addition to our crisis intervention services, we offer a range of programs designed to support people at any stage of addiction or recovery. For more information, please call today.

Medically Reviewed: July 23, 2021

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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