Whether it's a friend, family member, colleague or stranger in need of support, it's best to begin by understanding the type of trauma they're experiencing. "There are levels of crisis and trauma," explains Mitru Ciarlante from the National Center for Victims of Crime.So it's important to assess whether the person is presently in a state of emergency, if the situation is immediately threatening, or whether the crisis is chronic and ongoing, Ciarlante says. Then you'll know whether you need the help of the police, a medical professional or simple words of encouragement.
Should the person be in current and direct danger, your first step will always be guiding them to safety (we'll discuss more about safety next). Still, not all crises involve dangerous situations and so determining a person's level of danger won't always be necessary. However, understanding the victim's type of trauma is crucial no matter what. Put yourself in the victim's shoes, so to speak, and understand the crisis from his or her point of view and allow them to express their full emotions without the fear of being judged.
Listening is also a vital first step in assessing someone's state of need, Ciarlante adds. When a person in crisis tells their story, they can begin to draw on their cognitive skills, instead of emotional skills, which can help return them to a calmer, less reactive mental space.