A Bolt from the Blue: Coping with Disasters and Acute Traumas

A Bolt from the Blue: Coping with Disasters and Acute Traumas

A Bolt from the Blue: Coping with Disasters and Acute Traumas

A Bolt from the Blue: Coping with Disasters and Acute Traumas


The significance of psychological trauma in the evolution of mental health disorders was understood at the beginning of the 1900s. However, almost a hundred years passed before psychology as a science had developed to the stage where one of its aims could be said to be prevention of the development of psychological traumas.

It was not until the 1990s that work on a larger scale was undertaken to promote psychological processing of traumatic experiences. Development of the principles and special methods did not start until the 1980s. However, healthcare and social work professionals, decision-makers and citizens in general could identify with the mode of thinking and action. The operational models of acute crisis work spread quickly in Finland and were widely adopted.

The reason why we can identify with the thinking underlying crisis and disaster psychology is found in our own experiences. Traumatic events are part of life, and we all either have personal experiences of them, or we have been in a position closely to observe other people's struggle to cope. Everybody has experienced the emotions and reactions such events elicit, and the helplessness we feel when confronted by them.

Many of us also have experiences of harmful resolution patterns in which people in such situations often seek refuge, and which our environment also produces and supports. After years and decades, we see how greatly traumatic experiences have influenced our lives.

My training is both in research and as a psychologist working in practical mental health services. In my professional work, the guiding idea throughout my career has been the development of preventive care. I was immediately attracted to disaster-psychological thinking when I heard about it in the early 1990s. I felt that the operational model of acute crisis work was the most effective preventive care possible. It is precisely targeted at people who both feel a great need to receive help, and whose emotional state, along with the demands of their circumstances, produces an increased risk to their mental health. Disasterpsychological work has clearly defined objectives. The method that makes reaching those objectives possible is also known.

The roots of disaster psychology are in the USA and Norway. In Finland, however, the models have developed further. My training as a researcher has predisposed me to approach practical clinical work, too, from a researcher's viewpoint. My natural approach to each clinical event is curiosity. What can I

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