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Disaster Response Team Essay

1981 words - 8 pages

Although not overtly discussed in the readings, it is impossible to fully consider any area of human response without considering cultural differences, influences and impact. When considering Mental Health Counselors being a part of disaster response teams, I was reminded of these individual and collective traumas discussed by Meyers (1994) also being located within and affected by the greater cultural/national affective responses to disasters. This awareness came in part from my personal experiences of having been in the States at the time of the September 11, 2001 attacks and also having been in London during the July 7, 2005 bombings. It is interesting to note my experience of being in Florida during the 2001 attacks, over 1,000 miles away from the actual attacks, and of being in London, less than 5 miles away from the bombings in the 2005. My response to each was influenced by the culture in which I was. The way a government, media, and collective culture respond to a disaster is permeated into the greater community response. “Keep Calm and Carry On” is very much a part of the British culture I experienced, whereas, I experienced the collective American culture to be much more demonstrative in their emotions. This awareness is something that lends itself to Mental Health professionals with multi-cultural training and experience and is relevant both with the United States and in International disaster response situations.
Separate to the cultural influences on reactions to disaster, I think individual differences exist, such that some people some may actually still want to recount everything in the moment and to have someone to hear them and be with them as a witness in that process and others may need to cope by distancing. I think there is infinite value in being present and just being responsive to whatever needs given individuals have in the moment – if it’s given choices of beverage aiding their feeling of personal agency in the moment, or, in allowing someone to recount every detail they may need to process what they have seen, or to find means for them to process it non-verbally. So, although Meyer’s (1994) chapter presents the mental health counselor’s approach to disaster as being more practical than psychological, I have the view meeting the needs of the client where they are at in a given point in time is being truly person-centered. The focus is on being in the client’s frame of reference and on the therapeutic relationship. I believe that being genuinely attuned to the client requires flexibility in application of an approach. This reminds me of something often said in supervision by my supervisor at my clinical placement at King’s College Hospital, in which I provided one-to-counseling to clients on the actual hospital wards at their hospital beds. He often spoke to us about being able to take our practice with us anywhere - to extend it beyond the traditional confines of the therapy room and to be confident in...

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