California is one of my favorite places to train the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® program. I was there last week and certified a large group to become instructors. The participants I come across in that state are always very receptive to the philosophy the training program speaks to. But the human service professionals in California are no different than those from other states in their desire to better understand what the Institute refers to as “Postvention”.

Loosely defined, crisis is a moment in time when behavior affects our ability to provide service to those around us. Postvention is a term used to describe a process used “at the end” of a crisis. So often people describe Postvention as a process that occurs “after” a crisis. But, “after” would indicate that the crisis is finished and no further action is required of the staff. This is not the case as Postvention occurs while the crisis is still in progress, albeit, at a level that we consider to be the last and therefore, can disguise itself as baseline behavior, anxiety or tiredness/exhaustion. This fools people into thinking that the crisis is, indeed, over.

The point here is that our efforts to manage crisis situations should not end when we see a decrease in someone’s behavior. Doing so sends a message to the person that we are no longer interested which could then lead to an immediate repeat of their earlier crisis behavior or a perpetuation of the unproductive behavior pattern. Therefore, postvention is just as important as prevention and intervention. So an investment on our part at this crucial moment is really a preventative effort even though it is occurring after the emotional/physical outburst or anxious behavior occurred. The biggest reason I have seen that staff doesn’t make this investment is that they don’t consider it worth their time. Would you spend the time if you knew it would prevent another crisis episode? The following story tries to answer this question.

My neighbor’s house burned down last week. I don’t know if you have ever seen someone’s home burn to the ground right before your eyes, but it is a very difficult and tragic thing to watch. Dave lived there with his wife and daughters. Thank goodness everyone got out of the house in time and there were no injuries. Dave is what some people would refer to as a “man’s man”. He is a carpenter and he has a lot of motorcycles, snowmobiles and various toys. His garage was like a magnet for all of us in the neighborhood whenever we had to borrow a tool or seek his advice on a house project. Unfortunately, Dave didn’t keep the garage very tidy. He had propane tanks lying around, space heaters, blowtorches, gasoline and the very makings of a fire and that is exactly where the fire started. Afterwards, I began thinking about how much time it would have taken Dave to clean his garage to prevent that fire. A couple of hours, maybe an afternoon? Now how long is it going to take for Dave’s family to recover from that fire? A lifetime! They lost EVERYTHING.

What we do as staff to manage behavior at the end of a crisis situation doesn’t take time, IT SAVES TIME! Our postvention efforts can potentially save a life. Isn’t that worth the time it takes?