Critical Incident Stress Debriefing

A Briefing on the Importance of Critical Incident Stress Debriefing

There are times when your employees will deal with unprecedented traumatic experiences, also known as critical incidents. Knowing what to do as an employer or manager is vital to the health of your team and business. A traumatic experience can do a multitude of things to the person going through it. Employees often struggle to regain control of their lives if they are not properly guided through the healing process. Others may not struggle as much if their support system is strong. After a critical incident, there needs to be a process that your employees go through to grieve and become well again. Critical incident stress debriefing can be a valuable tool to help your team after a life-threatening event.

Critical incident stress debriefing can be a valuable tool to help your team after a life-threatening event


Suggestions to Employers/Managers

It can be quite overwhelming to know how to handle your employees’ emotions after a traumatic event. This is especially hard when your entire team is affected as well. Though it can be painful, it’s necessary to listen to your affected employees and then direct them to get professional help. Here are some things to do right away as an employer or manager:

  • Acknowledge their legitimate emotions after the event, and remember that each employee will react differently and recover at different paces.
  • Encourage employees to support and talk to one another about what they are going through.
  • Call the EAP to schedule a professional who is trained in Critical Incident Stress Debriefing/Management to come on site and conduct CISD support groups.
  • Contact the EAP for a management consult on these matters, if you need guidance on how to best support your employees.
  • Communicate regularly with your staff to update on funeral services and/or provide encouragement and reassurance.
  • Host times where your employees can meet as a group and talk through it.
  • Offer individual or group support to employees that are directly affected, and approach employees who look like they are struggling. Offer them assistance and access to EAP resources.
  • Acknowledge your struggles and remind yourself of the importance of continuing business.
  • Discuss with your staff how to successfully resume business operations. Create and make available materials at public contact points.
  • Share ideas with other managers about how to support your employees and the community.
  • Get together a memorial fund or something like it to honor and remember the employee. This will help with the grieving process.


Where Do I Begin, as a Manager?

You may be wondering, “Where do I even start?” Acknowledge their pain, and strive to keep talking to them. Even if it’s uncomfortable, they will usually be appreciative of your attempt to connect with them. Silence and avoidance is not a good plan. Many times, your employees could experience numbness and have trouble expressing how they are feeling. This is part of the grieving process and completely natural. Lastly, expect to hear their story over and over for a bit. This is how they process their pain. If you need to get work done, kindly pull them aside and ask if they can talk to you another time about it. Be intentional and careful how you say it, but also make sure to be professional.

EAP Assistance with the Process

An employee assistance program offers your organization professional assistance from licensed counselors who are trained in working with trauma, grief, and critical incident stress debriefing (CISD). Since you are in a management role, employees will look to you for guidance in the critical incident stress debriefing process. This can be a lot of responsibility, but with the help of your EAP, you can successfully navigate the process. Here are some resources that we offer to you as a manager who is helping your team through stress reactions and trauma:

EAP Services


  • Critical Incident Stress Management
  • In person assessment/problem-solving
  • Referral to community resources
  • Family help and assessment
  • Long-distance referrals & assistance for family members in other parts of the country
  • Referrals to mental health professionals


Resuming Normal Work

We know as a team you will never be the same after a critical incident. No one expects it to be the same. But you do want work to resume and the business to remain productive. The only way to do this is to try and get back to a healthy work environment with emotions still running high. Sometimes team members may want to take some paid time off. This is OK, and should be encouraged. Also work with your team to set goals, and stay focused on your organization’s mission. Staying active and in a routine is helpful after a traumatic experience.
Feel free to contact our team anytime for a management consult, especially for the matters discussed in this article. We are here for your team and care about the success of your employees’ health and wellness. There is nothing better than a connected and thriving team of professionals!


Care Plus Solutions is America’s first EAP and is headquartered in New York and has offices in New Jersey. Over the course of the company’s 46 year history, their brand has remained firmly rooted in the rich history of the EAP field, never losing sight of the fundamental purpose of the EAP; delivering personal and quality services to those in need. It is fair to say that Care Plus Solutions is the gold standard in the field of Employee Assistance.


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