In past decades, the terms ‘crisis’ and ‘disaster’ were very general and used to describe a range of situations. This led to vaguely defined response plans that were applied to many emergencies and rarely detailed exactly what people on the ground needed. This meant survivors struggled to find the care and support they needed. Today, thanks to research such as that of the National Center for PTSD, disasters have been more clearly defined. These include classifications based on the type of crisis, whether it is natural or man-made and how many people are involved.
Social workers make effective interventions when disaster strikes
Post-disaster social work plays a key role in the efforts of response teams. To do their job well, these professionals need a thorough understanding of the context of the crisis. This includes the social, economic and environmental factors in play. It’s a challenging situation but social workers gain strength from the support of their team and their professional training.
Social workers strive to enhance the well-being of their clients at all times, but the ability to make a positive impact in such dire circumstances is incredibly rewarding. Bachelor’s program graduates who are ready for a role in social work can complete an MSW degree online at Cleveland State University. There are no campus visits, so students can complete the work at their own pace and finish their studies without giving up their current job net worth.
When a crisis emerges, knowing what has happened and what is most urgently needed gives social workers the chance to help. This might include re-establishing community resilience, assisting with practical relief or offering counselling services. When a disaster relief mission is active, the intervention skills and knowledge a social worker has are essential to the vulnerable people affected.
How crisis counselling can address deep-seated issues
Also known as psychological first aid, crisis counselling is used to help people in the immediate aftermath of a frightening incident. In addition to alleviating some of the initial distress, it supports the person with coping in both the short and long term. When social workers offer this assistance or arrange for it to be offered through a psychiatrist, they help a person regain their senses of control and balance. This means that eventually, they can begin to function normally once again following their experience. Along with emotional support, the end goal is to provide coping strategies that aim to solve the problems created by the crisis. After this, longer-term therapy may be suggested.
Supporting vulnerable communities and populations in the aftermath of a disaster
Social workers have many services at their disposal when it comes to post-disaster work within the community. From assistance with housing to emergency supplies and funds for expenses, they collaborate across several sectors to deliver this aid, from government departments to non-profits and local groups. Boosting the resilience of the population and encouraging a community-led response where possible is key to what they do.
People may be unsure and distressed in the early days as they need time and space to make decisions. Therefore, social workers adapt their services depending on the stage survivors are at following the incident. Although local people are encouraged to take part in these efforts and social workers strive to work with them, change happens at a pace residents feel comfortable with. The focus remains on local knowledge, culturally appropriate practices and inclusion.
After the shock has begun to dissipate, they can assist with rebuilding the community’s sense of well-being, cohesion and infrastructure. Social workers can also relieve some of the strain by responding to media enquiries, so residents don’t have to. In the same vein, when they receive concrete information about an aid package or housing availability, they will ensure the public is made aware of any accurate news.
Coordinating services to boost the relief effort
The short-term needs of people that have been caught up in a disaster are often met by relief programs, but providers such as the American Red Cross, FEMA and local emergency services need information from people in the area. This is where social workers come in to ensure resources are appropriately distributed and to assist with the provision of programs. They can also work with other agencies, non-profits and community groups to locate the resources their clients need.
They might distribute information among residents about the services or programs that are on offer and encourage people to make use of them. This will often involve visiting remote locations as part of outreach clinics to ensure services are accessible to all. Social workers also use their position as an advocate to collaborate with relief organizations and attempt to obtain additional support for their clients.
Supporting families through a crisis
Post-disaster there are numerous challenges that families face when it comes to rebuilding their lives. Children can feel less stressed during a crisis if their parents are coping well, so by ensuring the entire family feels secure and safe, social workers can make it easier for everyone to recover. Using plain language, professionals will keep children involved in decision-making as much as possible, encourage them to identify their feelings and offer coping strategies for when a young person feels overwhelmed.
Social workers can also ensure everything has been done for a family in practical terms, verifying that they have the resources and supplies they need. They can provide reassurance or guidance for worried families and children who are concerned about being separated from each other or their pets. Children may suffer lasting trauma after a disaster, so social workers can work alongside parents to get them the counselling they need.
From disaster relief to planning for the future
Community-level interventions allow social workers to minimize long-term damage to the most vulnerable people, from homeless residents to children and families. They help to coordinate the efforts of various organizations and ensure resources are allocated properly. At present, social workers are mainly involved with helping out in active disasters; however, in the future, their insight will increasingly be used to inform disaster planning and research.