Crisis intervention is a therapeutic process that addresses immediate emergencies and is essential for preventing mental health problems and subsequent illnesses. The primary goals are to stabilize the client and relieve emotional distress or other symptoms. Kumar (2020) defines crisis intervention as “the immediate professional help to combat the crisis and restore normal pre-crisis health condition and functioning” (p. 275). Various models are intending to decrease the impact of emergencies and stress on people. This paper aims to discuss the ABC model of crisis intervention and its main principles.
The Stages of the ABC Model
The ABC model of crisis intervention is based on the ideas of trauma-informed care, behavioral psychology, and cultural humility. These core principles emphasize the process of restoring the functioning of the affected individual. According to Kanel (2019), this approach is “based on Jones’s (1968) ABC method of crisis management, with its three-stage process: A, achieving rapport; B, boiling the problem down to basics; and C, coping” (p. 38). It should be noted that these components are not necessarily linear, and the model promotes flexibility, focusing on the client’s needs. The three stages aim to help the counselor conduct a unique and informative interview with the patient.
The first stage of the ABC model is fundamental and centered around the achievement of rapport, which can be defined as the state of trust and understanding between the client and the counselor. In this regard, attending skills are crucial for a crisis therapist since they enhance the comprehension of the problem. It is essential to focus on the patient’s feelings and perspective on the emergency to identify the issue and develop coping strategies. Basic attending skills include questioning, paraphrasing, clarifying, reflection, and summarization (Kanel, 2019). They can be used throughout the interview to ensure appropriate attending behavior. As per Kanel (2019), it includes “using a soft, soothing voice, showing an interested face, having a relaxed posture, leaning toward the client, making direct eye contact, and maintaining close physical proximity” (p. 40). Overall, the counselor-patient rapport is essential, and their effective collaboration must be maintained for positive outcomes.
Identifying the Problem
The second stage of the ABC model is the most important one since it focuses on the nature and the aspects of the crisis. As stated by Kanel (2019), the following elements should be identified and explored: the precipitating event, cognitions, emotional distress, “impairments in functioning: behaviorally, socially, academically, and occupationally,” and the pre-crisis levels of functioning (p. 48). In addition, ethical checks are vital during the interview since they allow for identifying suicidality, homicide and abuse issues, organic concerns, substance misuse, and other problems. It is recommended to use open-end questions to encourage cooperation and open communication with the client when discussing these matters (Kanel, 2019). Finally, validation, educational, empowering, and reframing statements play an important role as therapeutic interaction tools.
The third stage of the ABC model focuses on the client’s coping strategies and behaviors that help restore and maintain functionality. In this regard, it is essential to explore the individual’s past coping attempts, encourage effective methods, and discuss the reasons why detrimental strategies were unsuccessful or harmful. When the inefficiency of past or current behaviors is established, clients are generally more open-minded toward alternatives (Kanel, 2019). At this point, their preferences should be discussed, which can facilitate the development of healthy coping strategies. It is crucial to help the client feel control over the outcomes of the crisis, which is why suggesting ideas and talking about alternatives can improve collaboration and functioning.
There are various coping strategies for crisis intervention based on each client’s unique experience and needs. Kanel (2019) mentions support groups and 12-step groups as organizations that encourage development and facilitate recovery. Furthermore, marital or family therapy can help resolve the crisis within households, while individual long-term therapy can be helpful for chronic problems when crisis intervention is irrelevant. Shelters and similar agencies can be viewed as coping strategies for individuals that require the involvement of specialized support organizations. Medical or legal referrals might be necessary for clients in crisis.
In addition, journaling, bibliotherapy, or reel therapy can be used as coping mechanisms. They aim to help clients gain a new perspective on the problem or realize that their feelings and concerns are normal and they are not alone. Moreover, assertion training and stress management are important for crisis intervention since they help individuals set boundaries and reduce the adverse effects of traumatic events. Overall, it is essential to encourage the client’s commitment to adhere to the plan and facilitate functionality.
To summarize, the ABC model of crisis intervention is a three-staged approach aiming to address an acute psychological problem and restore normal functioning. Rapport, the nature of the crisis, and coping strategies constitute the basic principles of the interviewing process. Since the method is problem-focused, the counselor can adapt it to address each individual’s situation and needs. Crisis intervention emphasizes trauma-informed care, the attending behavior of the therapist, and cultural humility.
Kanel, K. (2019). A guide to crisis intervention (6th ed.). Cengage Learning.
Kumar, R. (2020). Essentials of psychiatry and mental health nursing. Elsevier India.