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FBI's Critical Incident Stress Management Program

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 68 Issue: 2 Dated: February 1999 Pages: 20-26
V J McNally; R M Solomon
Date Published
7 pages
Line-of-duty shootings, death, suicide, serious injury of co-workers, homicides, and hostage situations are critical incidents that often leave police officers with an overwhelming sense of vulnerability and lack of control.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) indicates about two-thirds of police officers involved in shooting incidents may experience significant emotional reactions. Typical responses include a heightened sense of danger, flashbacks and nightmares, intrusive imagery and thoughts, anger, guilt, sleep difficulties, withdrawal, depression, and stress symptoms. The FBI has developed the Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) program to safeguard and promote the psychological well-being of FBI employees following traumatic experiences. The CISM program provides a confidential method of mitigating adverse effects of critical incidents and promoting positive resolution. Program participants include individuals from the FBI's Employee Assistance Unit, chaplains, peers, and mental health professionals with expertise in police psychology and trauma. The CISM program offers a continuum of interventions and services that incorporate both immediate and long-term support. Techniques used in the CISM program encompass defusing the critical incident, stress debriefings, peer or one-on-one support, family assistance, management support, referral and follow-up services, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, and post-critical incident management. Intervention methods employed by the FBI may be useful to other law enforcement agencies faced with similar situations. Examples of line-of-duty critical incidents are cited. 12 endnotes and 2 photographs