Are you thinking of starting a CISM peer support team in your organization? That’s excellent news. It shows you care about your greatest asset, your people. But where do you begin? Developing a CISM team is not difficult, but it does require some planning and support from all levels of your organization.
The purpose of any Critical Incident Stress Management team is to mitigate the potential emotional and psychological impact of a traumatic event or critical incident on the individual or group. It works by implementing active listening skills and the mechanisms of action inherent in the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation model of CISM.
How Do I Put Togethera CISM Team?
The success of CISM teams depends on the qualifications and training of peers and the support of the administration. We’re here to help you in successfully implementing a CISM peer support program.
This article assumes you are familiar with the concept of critical incident stress and Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM). For background and general information on this model of crisis intervention, go to icisf.org.
Let’s take a look at what is involved in starting your program.
Phase I - Plan Ahead
What is Needed?
Step 1 - Understand who makes up a CISM team.
Peers - Co-workers who are willing to be trained in CISM techniques play the most active and vital role in peer support programs since they benefit from immediate credibility among their co-workers. They must be adequately prepared to lead CISM interventions after critical incidents. Basic training, as well as refresher training, are to be an on-going part of the program. The peer role is to provide short-term support as an emotional first aid. Still, peers shall have the ability to identify the need for further skilled intervention, i.e., chaplain, mental health professional, etc.
Chaplains - Critical incidents will often shake an individual's spiritual wellbeing. Trained, professional chaplains are a valuable asset to any CISM team during and after any traumatic event. In a time of difficulty, individuals will frequently turn to chaplains for leadership, advice, comfort, compassion, and faith.
Coordinators - Role also assumed by peers, but with additional training, to handle administrative tasks and organize other support measures such as “debrief the debriefer” sessions aiming to help with the distress that interventions might have caused upon peers. Coordinators shall also be very aware of any potential secondary traumatization, that is, any situation faced by peers that causes them to experience unusually strong emotional reactions and feelings of countertransference, which have the potential to interfere with their ability to function in their prescribed role.
Mental Health Professionals (MHP) - It is advisable to count on the support of mental health professionals to handle deep-seated psychological problems. These professionals may include counselors, psychologists, and social workers.
CISM Director -Ideally, to guarantee the independence and credibility of the program, the program should be run by a director independent from the company/agency management.
Step 2 - Financing
You need to consider the following when implementing a CISM team:
Resource requirements, personnel, internal and external support services
Cost-analysis of the project including meetings, traveling, training (basic training, refresher training, regular peers meetings, etc.), communication
Financial approval and local process of financing
Step 3 - Timetable
Project milestones should be:
Develop a working policy and procedures for the team
Awareness information package
CISM peer selection, call for applicants, nomination and selection
CISM peer training
Initial evaluation and quality management
Step 4 - Documentation
Develop documents for administration, promotion, information, training, and evaluation. For example:
Terms of reference, Guidelines, Confidentiality agreements
Team operations manual, team documents and various handouts if needed
Management manual, quality assurance documents, feedback forms
Step 5 - Planning the Training
Training for CISM peers and supervisors should start at an early stage because it requires many resources and a lot of development work. Consider the following items:
Determine whether training will be done locally or will travel be involved
Types of training: initial, refresher, for coordinators, for peers
Reach out to ICISF Approved Instructor for training options
Recruitment and selection of peers
Selection of venues
Travel planning if necessary
Phase II - Implementation
Going for it!
Step 6 - Communication
Benchmarking and feedback from organizations already running CISM programs
Achievement of formal agreements with the organization’s management (General Management as well as Operational Management) and also staff associations
Consider providing a call-center phone number or contact details and availability of CISM peers at the local level
Consider different ways of communication, such as online publications, flyers, posters, staff magazines, briefings, etc.
Step 7 - Peer Selection and Recruitment
The following activities are advisable:
Define the number of peers required. The adequate amount will depend on the location of the team, the number of individuals served, types of call-out procedures, and availability of resources. It is crucial to keep in mind that a failure in call-out procedure and intervention has the effect of deteriorating confidence in the CISM team's ability to respond to a crisis.
Define the number of Mental Health Professionals required.
Detail peers’ required skills.
Decide and inform upon the selection board and peer selection process. Staff and staff associations should have a voice in the selection; otherwise, the program could be less successful.
Consider the selection of an overall CISM Director.
Consider the selection of local CISM coordinators.
Consider the support of external professional resources (CISM experts).
Select team/peer members.
Step 8 - Provide the Training
At this point, the focus should be on:
Defining the contents of modules and developing training documentation
Setting by which means the training is to be delivered (Computer-based training, on-line courses, in-class courses, etc.)
Ultimate timetable including venues for the training to take place
Planning of not only initial but also refresher training
Plan of succession for leaving CISM peers
Phase III - Evaluation and Quality Management
Step 9 - On-going Communication
Status of the program
Feedback about CISM interventions.
Statistical reports to evaluate the effectiveness of the program
Contact us if you would like more information. Or let us equip you with a turn-key solution. We will walk you through the entire process, provide International Critical Incident Stress Foundation approved training, and even offer ongoing consulting assistance.