Critical Incident Stress Management

The Registered Psychiatric Nurses Association of Saskatchewan believes that Critical Incident Stress Management is an early intervention program which accelerates the recovery process of persons involved in a critical incident.

A critical incident is any situation faced by an individual which causes them to experience unusually strong emotional reactions, and which has the potential to interfere with their ability to function, either at the scene or later; an unexpected event outside the normal range of experience, disruptive of our sense of control and involving a threat or perceived threat to ourself or others which can create an overwhelming feeling of helplessness. Reactions have an impact on our body as well as our thoughts and feelings.

The Registered Psychiatric Nurses Association of Saskatchewan believes that the following principles of Critical Incident Stress Management should guide the development of the Critical Incident Stress Management process:

  • Pre-incident Stress Education
  • On site peer support – there for emotional support, must be someone who can be objective, serious, specific, action oriented and solution based
  • Demobilization – a primary stress prevention and intervention technique which is applied immediately after the personnel are released from a large scale scene and before they return to normal duties
  • Defusing – a small group process which is instituted after any traumatic event (critical incident) powerful enough to overwhelm the coping mechanisms of the people exposed to it
  • Debriefing (C.I.S.D.) – a group intervention technique applied subsequent to a traumatic event, to mitigate the impact and accelerate the normal recovery process of healthy people who have been exposed to very unusual events
  • Individual consults
  • Significant other support
  • Specialty Debriefing
  • Informal Discussions
  • Follow-up services


Mitchell, J.T. and Everly, G.S. (1993). Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD): an Operations Manual for the Prevention of Traumatic Stress among Emergency Services & Disaster Workers. Ellicott City, MD: Chevron Publishing.

Approved by Council
January 1996