The Importance of Debriefing Processes in the Field of Intervention

The purpose of this blog includes:

Ø Generate an interactive discussion on a topic often overlooked

Ø Generate questions and responses

Ø Encourage self-reflection

There are a number of questions asked throughout this blog. Please respond to not only the questions but responses of others.

The Importance of Debriefing Processes in the Field of Intervention

The role of the intervenor can sometimes be stressful and isolating without serious or critical incidents occurring. Intervenors whether working in schools, homes, community and/or in the workplace are often supporting individuals with deafblindness on a one to one basis and without other support present.

According to the Better Health Channel; “Debriefing (powerful event group support) is usually carried out within three to seven days of the critical incident, when workers have had enough time to take in the experience. Debriefing is not counselling. It is a structured voluntary discussion aimed at putting an abnormal event into perspective. It offers workers clarity about the critical incident they have experienced and assists them to establish a process for recovery.”

As an intervenor would you recognize a serious or critical incident? What would you consider a serious or critical incident?


A critical incident is any event or series of events that is sudden, overwhelming, threatening or prolonged. This may include an assault, behavioural incident, threats, severe injury, death, fire and situations dealing with mental health.

Have you experienced a serious or critical incident? As an intervenor what action did you take? What occurred afterwards?


Debriefing processes often occur in many other fields and are considered an essential service. After some discussion with agencies and school boards who support individuals with deafblindness; it was determined that this is a very individualized process and often does not include a formal policy and/or process.

Does the current or past agencies you have worked at have a process for debriefing?

Have you experienced the process of debriefing within the field of deafblindness/intervention and what did it include?


Critical incident can result in symptoms for the intervenor such as shock, denial, anger, rage, sadness, confusion, terror, shame, humiliation, grief, and sorrow. Other responses include restlessness, fatigue, frustration, fear, guilt, blame, grief, moodiness, sleep disturbance, eating disturbance, muscle tremors or "ticks", reactive depression, nightmares, profuse sweating episodes, heart palpitations, vomiting, diarrhea. hyper-vigilance, paranoia, phobic reaction and problems with concentration or anxiety (APA, 1994; Horowitz, 1976; Young, 1994). A debriefing process is a successful option when dealing with these situations if implemented in a timely manner.

Critical incident stress management (CISM) is a key element of debriefing processes. It provides support to assist the recovery of individuals experiencing normal distress following exposure to abnormal events. It is based on a series of comprehensive and confidential strategies that aim to minimize any adverse emotional reaction the person may have. Critical incident stress management strategies in the workplace include:

  • Preparing workers for a possible critical incident in the workplace
  • Demobilization (rest, information and time out – RIT)
  • Defusing (immediate small group support)
  • Debriefing (powerful event group support)
  • One-on-one support sessions
  • Follow-up support.

Demobilization is part of the debriefing process. Demobilization (rest, information and time out) is a way of calming workers following a critical incident and ensuring that their immediate needs are met.

A supervisor or manager who was not involved in the incident, or affected by it, carries out the demobilization. Here is an example of a demobilization process: A demobilization takes place before the end of a shift or before those involved in the incident disperse. Strategies include:

  • Convene a meeting for those involved as soon as possible.
  • Summarize the incident and clarify uncertainties.
  • Invite questions and discuss issues of concern.
  • Show care and support, including the provision of Psychological First Aid.
  • Draw up a plan of action, taking into account the needs of the workers.
  • Make short-term arrangements for work responsibilities.
  • Offer information on defusing and debriefing.


If the agency you work for doesn’t have a process for debriefing how might you assist in facilitating one?


When a serious or critical incident occurs more than just the paperwork needs to be considered. It is important as an Intervenor and/or manager to recognize when this process is needed and ensure the team has the support required. We all play an essential role in enhancing services and supports for both individuals with deafblindness and the teams supporting them. Debriefing is just one of the critical components necessary in our field. We spend a lot of time focusing on others as Intervenors but debriefing contributes to the overall wellness of the Intervenor including less sick time, less burnout and ability to function as positive member of your team.


Kirsty Wymant and Cheryl Ramey