What is crisis intervention in social work?

Published on by Ray Knott

The crisis intervention service of your local social services department provides emergency support to people within the community who are experiencing acute emotional distress, and are at a crisis point.

Crisis definition

A crisis definition is a person’s reaction to an event or a chain of events which causes extreme emotional distress. Common examples of a crisis situation are victims of domestic abuse, becoming homeless, or suffering extreme depression. A crisis may be a specific situation, or series of events leading up to a situation where the person feels they can no longer cope.

For example a person’s mental health may well be a cause for concern, and the crisis intervention team would have to satisfy themselves that the person would be safe and not attempt self-harm. In cases of domestic abuse, the first priority of the crisis intervention team would be the safety of those involved, and if there are children involved, then it will be necessary for social work intervention to provide ongoing support, and or decide if the children need to be taken out of this environment for their own protection.

Crisis intervention

Social services will have a crisis team which deal specifically with individuals experiencing crisis and distress within the community. The intervention team is made up of Community Psychiatric Nurses (CPN) as well as social workers and a consultant psychiatrist. They will have the necessary expertise in crisis intervention techniques, and a member of the crisis team will work with an individual on a

one-to-one basis, for as long as it takes to reduce the level of emotional distress that person is suffering.


There are strategies for dealing with mental health crisis intervention within the social services framework, and allowing the person in crisis to talk openly about the distress is a very important aspect of the intervention, another is to help empower the person to develop coping strategies, and to recognise potential triggers for crisis so they are better equipped to deal with such an event in the future. Above all the intervention team will want to be sure that the person in crisis does not pose any threat to himself or herself in the form of self-harm. The crisis intervention team usually operates between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday to Friday, and then an out of hour’s service by staff on a rotational basis.

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