In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Crisis Interventions

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Textbooks
  • Crisis Journals
  • Specialized Organizations
  • Research
  • Additional Resources

Social Work Crisis Interventions
Mo Yee Lee, James Beauchemin, Cathy Grover-Ely
  • LAST REVIEWED: 31 March 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 March 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0233


Crisis interventions have evolved in the past forty years to fill a service gap that emerged at a time when long-term treatment was the standard for creating change and improvement in the lives of clients, although such a model does not suffice to address clients’ needs in a crisis situation. Gerald Caplan, an early pioneer in crisis intervention, described crisis as a state of upset experienced by an individual, group, or community when he, she, or they are confronted by serious and significant demands or deprivations that may constitute a turning point for better or worse in their continued well-being and that crisis can be experienced as loss, threat, and/or challenge (see Caplan 1961, An approach to community mental health, and Caplan 1964, Principles of preventive psychiatry). Currently, crisis intervention is taught at most social work graduate programs and constitutes an integral part of human services for a variety of problems and contexts. While using a wide range of treatment perspectives, most crisis intervention models tend to be brief and focused. Early writers on crisis intervention include Gerald Caplan, Howard J. Parad (Parad 1965), and Otto S. Margolis, (Margolis, et al. 1981).

General Overviews

There are several early works that have been influential in conceptualizing crises and developing treatment approaches. Caplan 1961 provides a general overview of crisis reactions and effective treatment, while Caplan 1964 approaches crisis intervention from a psychodynamic perspective. Parad 1965 introduces crisis intervention theory, and Margolis, et al. 1981 gives readers an overview of loss, grief, and bereavement.

  • Caplan, Gerald. 1961. An approach to community mental health. New York: Grune & Stratton.

    This book introduces crisis intervention as a new approach to community mental health. The author defines what a crisis is, the four stages of crisis reactions, and how the nature of crisis requires a different approach from that of traditional long-term treatment for effectively helping people in crises.

  • Caplan, Gerald. 1964. Principles of preventive psychiatry. New York: Basic Books.

    In the context of preventive psychiatry, this book describes a psychodynamic approach to crisis intervention and traumas treatment. This book also provides useful guidelines to working with individuals in crises.

  • Margolis, Otto S., Howard C. Raether, Austin H. Kutscher, et al. 1981. Acute grief: Counseling the bereaved. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

    The book provides an overview of loss, grief, and bereavement, and provides examples specific to natural disasters, military trauma, sudden infant death syndrome, and violence. Specific counseling considerations are discussed, and roles of clergy and other community supports.

  • Parad, Howard J., ed. 1965. Crisis intervention: Selected readings. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Family Service Association of America.

    This early work introduces crisis intervention theory and describes the practice of crisis interventions with different problems and diverse settings.

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