Southern California Region

Peer Counseling

Peer Counseling

A critical incident is any event or experience, usually unexpected which has the power to overwhelm the defenses of an individual.

A Critical Incident Stress debriefing can lessen the emotional impact on personnel exposed to the critical incident. It can accelerate recovery from the event before harmful stress reactions damage work performance, health, work and family relations.  So Cal NSP offers support and training to a cadre of Peer Counselors who will respond to an incident.  These counselors can help aid and assist in the recovery process through Critical incident debriefings.   Affected patrollers relate to a group of their peers with whom they can share their experiences. 

It is not uncommon for people to experience some distress in response to a traumatic event, even when these events are faced routinely.

Some common reactions:  

Emotional numbing — Many distance themselves from the incident and make an effort not to feel any thing. They almost deny having an emotional component, and therefore give the appearance that they are in a state of shock. They usually say, however, that they are in control and are having no problems dealing with the situation.

Isolation — They experience the feeling of being alone and that no one else knows what they are going through. They may experience irritability and agitation, and may again deny that anything is wrong.

Intrusive thoughts/flashbacks — They will relive the event in their mind: over and over again. If it continues, they begin to wonder or question whether they have complete control of their thoughts. This can change their final outlook, for better or worse.

Sleep disturbances — Disturbances, which can result from a traumatic incident, include inability to sleep, nightmares, and waking in a cold sweat. In the nightmares, the theme is fear or guilt. Guilt is common in 95% of traumatic incidents to varying degrees. This guilt can be translated into anger or depression.

Anxiety and fear — The fear most commonly felt is that of returning to the exact job duties as before, i.e. returning to routine duty.

Loss of interest/burnout — Loss of interest in work is difficulty in returning to it. Mundane activities suddenly become boring.

Re-consideration — Re-evaluation of each person’s value system, goals and status is often the final step which determines the person’s abilities to cope and how they will continue their future activities. Some consider giving up their current careers. They may also re-evaluate their personal relationship situations. Some make a stronger commitment and others exit the relationship.

Patrollers are encouraged to reach out directly, or through their Patrol Director.  There are no costs or fees to patrollers receiving care through this invaluable program.

Program Advisor  

Diane Osterhues diana@santaclaritapt.com

Steve Sue  oecsandiego@gmail.com

Colin Newlin  colin.newlin@mac.com