The nature of crisis is that it is (1) overwhelming, and (2) inevitable. Whether you are a clinician in the helping professions or a person in relationship with other persons, crisis will show up eventually. When it does, we can all be a little more ready to handle potentially overwhelming experiences by planning how to assess, connect, process, and plan.
A great way to be prepared is by developing a crisis plan ahead of time. Crisis planning doesn’t have to be a dramatic intervention done by professionals (although knowing when to bring in professional help is an essential part of a crisis plan). In fact, good crisis planning can be done over coffee, in the carpool lane, or just about anywhere else. I’m not talking about filling out forms about risk factors and primary, secondary emergency contacts, I’m talking about the kind of conversations that might sound a little more like “Last time you were really down, I was scared because I didn’t know how to help you. Can you tell me what kind of things help a little when things feel that bad?” or “I like that you know you can reach out to me when you are feeling bad and don’t you don’t go into hiding. Do you know who you would call if I wasn’t available?”
In the words of a professor from my grad school, “The best time to do crisis planning is when we aren’t in crisis.” Conversations with your people outside of crisis, when everyone is thinking more clearly, help set expectations and boundaries for how crisis can be handled. The same instructor who adamantly argued for crisis planning outside of crisis situations also advocated that everyone – including mental health workers – should develop their own crisis plan: a list of what to do, safe places to go, ways to safely distract, and people to reach out to when our own crises come.
If you need an easy to use crisis planning template, I’ve included the version pictured below as a FREE download on my Patreon account, which can be downloaded here. One strategry/gameplan for supporting others through a crisis can be found in my RO-DBT Responding to Crisis Handout.