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In response to the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Marin County Chapter of CAMFT formed their Disaster Mental Health Response Team and began training their members in crisis response. Following the 9-11 terrorist attacks CAMFT leadership consulted with the Marin County Chapter and the Trauma Response Network Task Force was formed to assess the training needs of the CAMFT membership. In September 2008 the CAMFT Board supported the Task Force recommendation to establish the Trauma Response Network (TRN) Committee to prepare members for community service following a crisis.
The TRN Committee established the CAMFT In the Eye of the Storm - Disaster Mental Health course and identified the American Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Foundations and the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation CISM Group Crisis Intervention as required trainings to give participants the unique knowledge and skills necessary to provide safe, effective service to the community in the aftermath of a disaster or crisis and to receive the TRN Training Certificate of Completion. Local Chapters designated TRN Chapter Coordinators to encourage interest and training in disaster response.
In 2013 the Board changed the Trauma Response Network Committee to the Crisis Response Education and Resource Committee (CRERC) to better meet the needs of more Association members. The Mission of the Crisis Response Education and Resources Committee was to promote member participation in disaster mental health and crisis response and to assist members seeking to become better prepared and trained by guiding them towards educational opportunities, materials, and resources designed to mitigate the negative psychological effects of disasters and critical incidents. As a result to these successful efforts, the Board decided to assume disaster preparedness and education efforts as a regular and integrated part of the CAMFT Board mission and discontinued the CRERC as a separate committee on May 31, 2020.
From 2013 to 2020 the Crisis Response Education and Resources Committee achieved the following:
A total of 31 different CAMFT Members volunteered their time, expertise, and experience while serving on the TRN Task Force, TRN Committee and/or CRER Committee between 2004 and 2020.
Please select a name to learn how they got started in the field of disaster and crisis work. You are invited to look inward to your own experience and motivation to become more involved in this vital work.
Following the 1994 Northridge Earthquake I felt compelled to try and assist the thousands of people whose lives were devastated by the impact of the quake. I went to the local chapter of the American Red Cross (ARC) to volunteer, but since I did not have the proper disaster mental health training, I was quickly taught basic ARC protocol and assigned to provide service in the local shelter distributing blankets, water, and other basic necessities. I felt a deep personal satisfaction serving others in need.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, ARC asked for Disaster Mental Health volunteers. Many members from San Fernando Valley CAMFT chapter wanted to help, but we lacked the applicable training to provide the mental health support we desired to give and that was so desperately needed. Having been professionally unprepared for two disaster events, it became my mission to help educate, organize and prepare our chapter in Disaster Mental Health. I was privileged to participate in developing our CAMFT Crisis Response Network that sponsored courses such as ICISF Critical Incident Stress Management, ARC Foundations of Disaster Mental Health, ARC Psychological First Aid, CAMFT Eye of the Storm and Psychological Effects of Terrorism. I personally obtained additional training from the Grief Institute and the Trauma Resource Institute. I also gained a unique perspective working on the trauma team in a hospital Emergency Room/Level 2 Trauma Center.
The CAMFT Crisis Response Education and Resource Committee provides our members with training, information, and opportunities in disaster mental health and crisis response. I would like to see our Committee offer more about building resiliency skills and understanding cultural differences and how they impact communities as well as using other protocols that have been effective in crisis response and disaster mental health.
I first served in the emerging field of disaster mental health after the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989. My colleagues and I worked with the pre-quake homeless and the newly homeless and delivered an all day workshop for fellow therapists. The people of Santa Cruz were especially grateful for the services we delivered to their community. After returning home to Los Angeles, I became active in my local American Red Cross Chapter, both as a responder and as an instructor. In recent years I have been serving with The Salvation Army. One of my great and continuing pleasures is teaching disaster mental health topics for new and experienced therapists.
My real passion is working in the field – delivering direct services to survivors and responders. Often it is the little moments that are the most rewarding, e.g., seeing the look of joy on a young child’s face when arriving with ice cream- as they help their parents sift through the debris of what used to be their home. The many similar and countless little moments like this have kept me engaged in disaster mental health.
The opportunity to work on a team with colleagues has been particularly fulfilling whether we were working on the pile in lower Manhattan after the attacks of September 11th, delivering crisis response services to NASA flight personnel at the Dryden Space Center for the Columbia Space Shuttle tragedy, or providing emotional support to survivors and volunteers in Joplin, Missouri that was struck by a devastating tornado. The opportunities to serve both locally and nationally are great. Disaster mental health responders can find themselves assisting children, adults and elderly survivors, emergency responders, medical personnel, and fellow disaster workers. The CAMFT Crisis Response Education and Resource Committee heartily invites our colleagues to become trained and volunteer to serve.
I grew up in the country and self-reliance is a staple of country life. Being in California taught me to be prepared for the next big earthquake. Over the years I have always been interested in crisis response, whether in a business sense, or in a hands-on, car accident, kind of way. My car is always prepared with basic supplies and at home I have the earthquake prep kit ready. A sweet man I grew up knowing as "uncle Mark" was in the military and was a driving force in me becoming a therapist. He brought PTSD into my vernacular at a young age and started my curiosity about how people recover from major events. He also served in a disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) for some of this country's larger crises, including Hurricane Katrina at the Superdome.
After becoming a therapist I felt a duty to serve my community during any crisis, but I knew that I needed to be trained. That is where CAMFT and the Crisis Response and Education Committee came into the picture for me. I have learned so much and I am grateful for the opportunity to help increase access to this information. Please take the time to know the basics of crisis response, and if so inclined, join me on the journey to become a first responder for mental health.
I've had a long dual career as a psychotherapist in private practice and as a school counselor. Whenever tragic events occurred in my school district I was the one they called to help. I guess they believed I had the aptitude and capacity to handle difficult and emotionally charged events. At some point I noticed that my well-meaning colleagues were doing things that were not only unhelpful, but actually making the situation worse. I didn't know how to intervene because I was acting on intuition with no knowledge base to draw upon. I was determined to know more and feel more competent. I was granted a sabbatical leave in 1999 to study Critical Incident Stress Management. I took every class I could and visited schools across the U.S. to find best practices to help students, staff, and parents recover from tragic events. I went on to become an Approved ICISF Instructor and served as clinical director for the San Diego County CISM Team. I now consult with education and business in designing crisis management and response systems and training crisis response teams.
I am committed to assisting psychotherapists apply their therapeutic skills appropriately to crises and to effectively use crisis intervention strategies in the practice of psychotherapy. I have found that people have big hearts and want to help. They value knowing what to do and how to do it and appreciate feeling more comfortable and capable from good training and skill development. I have learned so much from the rich experiences of my colleagues on the CRER Committee and the California Disaster Mental Health Coalition. I want all CAMFT members to benefit from this collective wisdom.
I have been a first responder for over 20 years and currently serve as a professional Firefighter/Paramedic in Orange County. I have experienced firsthand how disasters affect a community, families, and individuals. Earthquakes, wildfires, floods, landslides, or transportation accidents; non of us are "immune" from the risks these events pose. Through proper planning, practice, and advanced preparation, my hope is to minimize the effects of any disaster, natural or man-made.
It is not a matter of "if", but rather "when" disaster will strike somewhere in our geographically large, populous state. We cannot prevent these events from occurring, but we can be prepared to aid and to counsel those in need to promote resiliency and recovery; to bring a sense of calm during the time of chaos. By collaborating as professionals, we can function to help others to remain resilient as individuals, families, neighbors, and communities. I believe that as mental health professionals, we have a unique skill set and a duty to act in times of crisis.
The very nature of assisting another human being with mental health services is deeply personal; I view it as both an honor and a privilege. I remain fully committed to serve in this role and help further develop mental health professionals and programs that promote excellence in crisis response. I welcome the opportunity to learn and assist my fellow CAMFT members in creating highly responsive and exemplary disaster response professionals, teams, and programs.
My work in crisis response started after the 1994 Northridge earthquake when I was an intern. The American Red Cross provided my agency with emergency training so we could help their efforts to assist the many people who had been impacted psychologically and physically. This opened my eyes to the field of crisis response. I felt privileged to be able to help, as well as to work among such resilient, big-hearted volunteers. After I becamse licensed, I joined the Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Team at my local chapter, eventually becoming a Co-Team Leader. During this time, I took courses with the international Critical incident Stress Foundation.
When the 9/11 terrorist attack occurred, I contacted the Red Cross to volunteer and was assigned to help in the LAX call center. I called in volunteers and assisted stranded travelers. This was so empowering...to feel I could make even a small contribution during such a catastrophic event! I was so relieved that I had the training and was prepared to immediately reach out to the Red Cross.
My interest and focus on crisis and trauma work began at the beginning of my career as a therapist. I learned and utilized the original crisis intervention skills developed after the disastrous Coconut Grove nightclub fire at the clinic where I was employed. After the Northridge earthquake I was among the first clinicians hired by Los Angeles Unified Schools and trained in a model that was similar to CISM and Psychological First Aid. We did mass debriefings with faculty, staff and students that was very helpful in getting the schools functioning. I then had the good fortune to be retained on the "crisis team" at the school that was most damaged for an additional 11 years dealing with other crisis and traumatic issues such as student deaths, suicides, shootings, "911," "debriefing the Debriefers," and facilitated a girls incest survivors group. I also earned advanced certification from ICISF and as part of my private practice do private contract work where I am sent to companies where there have been events such as a robbery or employee death.
While my continued fascination is with the richness of depth psychotherapy (especially in cases of developmental trauma) and the change it can bring about, I feel equally privileged to do CISM and Psychological First Aid. Disasters and other traumatic events tend to evoke an irrational sense of shame which is dangerously isolating for the victim(s). But the skills we have can help victims realize their strengths, reduce their isolation, realize their survival skills, quickly return to functioning, and gain a new identity of "survivor." I also enjoy the sense of community when I work with other clinicians. Additionally, I have a specific interest in the additional focus for clinicians to engage in "debriefing the debrifers" sessions to mitigate compassion fatigue.
I have had the privilege of being a disaster response clinician for nearly 30 years. Since that terrible time of the San Ysidro massacre, where many of my colleagues were newly introduced into the Mitchell Model and trained in response, locally by Dr Mantell, I have been fascinated with what can be done to understand the human response to trauma and help script a potentially healing narrative from the chaos.
Like many of my colleagues in the Trauma and Disaster response field, I am drawn by the intense and often humanely personal contact with survivors as they make new meaning or reorder their new-normal, post-disaster. I have had unique opportunities to meet people all over the County, State, Country and globe at a crisis point; remembering the Chinese character for "crisis" is the combination of danger and opportunity.
I have gained from the experience and brilliance of many experts in the field as well as having grown into my own over the years. I have worked with combat veterans, first responders, sexual assault survivors, as well as the masses affected by hurricanes, floods, tsunamis, disease, famine and earthquakes.
I am committed to the ideal that the best revenge is a good and full life...as I work together with those touched by the man-made wages of war and oppression. I have had the opportunity to serve a year with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Central Asia, year recently and have returned with even greater aspiration to help where and when I can.
As a clinician, I seek to serve my fellow wo/man by positive action. I hope that being part of this committee, I can share my passions, experiences, and in doing so inspire others to take up the torch.
In 2000 I joined the Los Angeles Crisis Response Team and have been hooked on the field ever since. At the request of the Police and Fire Departments, volunteers provide on-scene crisis intervention, act as a liaison between the victim and emergency personnel, and give referrals to victims. I eventually became a LMFT and have incorporated my experience and training as a crisis responder into my practice.
I went into the field in crisis response due to two major life events. In 1997 my sister died due to complications from a lung transplant. I distinctly recall the support and caring of the hospital staff throughout the 3 days my family camped out in the hospital. Although my grieving process took place over many years, I credit the support and caring of the hospital staff with setting me on the right path towards health grieving. What I ultimately came to learn was the significant impact the right support immediately after a traumatic event can have in helping people start their journey of redefining a new normality.
My second, impetus for being in this field has to do with my life long respect for law enforcement. When I was growing up I wanted to be a police officer so after earning a Bachelor Degree in Criminal Justice, I graduated from the Police Academy. During that time there was a strong disconnect between law enforcement and the general public so I chose not to enter the profession. For me, Community Crisis Response bridges that gap between law enforcement and the Community. I get great satisfaction from helping my community and at the same time providing support to our first responders.
Being involved with CRERC and CDMHC allows me the opportunity to help my fellow MFTs become involved in a field that is so rewarding.
Although still young in my journey towards becoming a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I bring to the table a strong background in crisis intervention and emergency response. Over the past six years, I have served as a clinician with the County of Santa Barbara's Mobile Crisis response team, conducting emergency psychiatric evaluations, both in the field, and in local hospital emergency departments. I have assessed many, many individuals from diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, implementing CA WIC 5150 holds if necessary, and/or bringing the crisis to resolution through alternative means, such as assisting the individual and their family in developing an appropriate safety plan and providing linkage to resources.
This work has allowed me to develop solid, collaborative partnerships with law enforcement and emergency medical personnel as well as with a broad range of collaborating mental health professionals and community agencies. I have first-hand experience with the challenges of negotiating the complex legal and ethical dilemmas associated with this work and also with the frustrations of navigating a desperately broken and under-funded system while coordinating the best possible care, which balances the client's right to the least restrictive treatment with individual and public safety foremost.
As emergency mental health responders, I believe we are forged into this work and that it requires a unique passion, commitment, and grit; I am honored to join my colleagues in crisis response and disaster mental health as a participant on this committee and in service towards ensuring that that the knowledge and resources needed by our fellow therapists are current and at hand. This can be an intimidating area of practice and accessibility is the key. I serve both to learn and to contribute and see this as a tremendous opportunity for growth towards my professional development as an MFT, and beyond.
I have been in the "disaster business" for over 25 years - first with the American Red Cross where I am still a volunteer, and now through my work with the Los Angeles Country Department of Mental Health - Disaster Services Unit. Disaster work has provided me with a unique opportunity to help people find the courage to grieve, to navigate assistance programs, and to regain a sense of hope for themselves, their family, and their community.
I have found that disaster response work is a calling, a privilege, and an opportunity for deep professional and personal growth. It has motivated me to work with my mental health colleagues to create and advocate for comprehensive and evidence-informed interventions that address all phases of the disaster response and recovery cycle, as well as provide the variety of intervention strategies needed to effectively address the intensity of people's disaster experiences and range of resiliency skills. I have also spent much of my career with my emergency management colleagues advocating for the more effective inclusion and integration of mental health practices and licensed professionals into existing emergency preparedness, response, recovery, and healthcare systems.
As a teacher, encourager, and supervisor of disaster mental health professionals over these many years, it is personally important for me, as it is for my colleagues on the Crisis Response Education and Resource Committee, to ensure that CAMFT members have access to the wide variety of training opportunities needed to gain the skills, competencies, and confidence needed to provide vital disaster mental health services during times when our community needs us the most.
I stumbled into mental health crisis work. After applying for numerous jobs after graduating from college the first job offer I received was working at a county 24-hour psychiatric emergency unit. I found that I enjoyed working in the unpredictable world of crisis work and being able to guide people through the treacherous and unpredictable landscape of psychiatric crises. I remember reading an article written by a staff member in the San Francisco Psychiatric Emergency Unit, that he listened to jazz while driving to work because just as jazz is improvisation as is crisis work. I found that to be true.
Enjoying this work and feeling like I was doing something useful led me to Critical Incident Stress Management. Living in California is living in a state with natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes and fires as well as man-made disasters and people needing guidance through these treacherous landscapes as well. I finally took CISM training in 1999. The CISM training led me to volunteer with the local Red Cross chapter to be able to assist in times of disaster. Later, while working for Napa County Mental Health, I was appointed to be the Disaster Mental Health Coordinator for the Health and Human Services Department, participating in numerous disaster exercises and helping to coordinate training for both county personnel and local private practitioners. During this time, I also served on the Napa County Red Cross Chapter Board of Directors working to ensure mutually beneficial working relationships among the county, the Red Cross and other volunteer organizations.
I see disaster response as a calling that I am privileged to hear. I applied to this committee to aide in making disaster response training available to our professionals and to inform on how to be of service when disaster strikes.
In October 1989 the San Francisco Bay Area endured the Loma Prieta earthquake - sometimes referred to as the "World Series Earthquake." As a native San Franciscan, I'm not sure if I can put into words what it was like to watch the collaps of the iconic Bay Bridge or my city burn to the ground; at least that's how it appeared on TV. I felt like I was on the "sidelines" and that I should be doing something!
In September 2010, my hometown of San Bruno, suffered the rupture of a natural gas transmission pipeline just around dinner time. We lost 8 people and 37 homes; the scars from that event are still apparent today with lots still standing vacant and reconstruction of the community infrastructure still not completed more than four years later. I am reminded of the mahem of that horrific night every time I drive through the area.
I have learned that whenever a crisis or disaster, natural or otherwise, strikes your own community, you are faced with learning of people you actually know being impacted in some manner. You cannot take comfort in being a "safe" distance from the epicenter of the event and just hoping "those people" will be alright in the end.
I help because I can. As a member of the Crisis Response Education & Resource Committee I have the opportunity to assist not only my own community, but also communities throughout the State of California where my fellow CAMFT members also reside with their families and serve their neighbors. Helping to formulate strategies and protocols to promote disaster preparedness gives me great gratification and satisfaction in making a difference for others.