A Course on Helping originated in my work as a Volunteer Red Cross Caseworker during the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes. As a Family Services Supervisor in our local Flint Hills Red Cross, I wanted to create a course experience that would strengthen the effectiveness of our volunteer caseworkers in supporting families experiencing crisis. The Course is essentially a "generic" helping skills course that can be used by any professional or nonprofessional in a wide range of emotionally difficult circumstances. A Disaster Action Team members (first responder), caseworkers, or shelter workers in Red Cross will find A Course on Helping useful in a variety of ways. When you read the course, think of the Friend as a client.
Sadness, fear, and anger are all strong emotions our clients feel at different moments when we are with them. The very nature of the work requires us to enter the storm.
First responders will need the skills to providing support to family members at this phase. Clients will have a difficult time listening at the scene of the disaster (a house fire, for example). Completing a 901 case file and provding families with financial support is probably better left for later when the head of household has moved to the following phase.of Stabilize. In some cases, families are ready to complete the paperwork at the scene. This is ideal because it saves them time and effort. We can get resources to them more swiftly.
In an emergency that involves many victims, the tendancy is to move quickly from one family to the next. In my opinion, the only way to help clients reach Stabilize is to take the necessary time to provide emotional support. If clients are in emotional turmoil, take the time to put the skills at this phase into action. be patient.
Once the head of household has moved to Stabilize, we can begin to focus on exploring the needs of the family and how Red Cross can help. At this point, we can help them understand the purpose and limitations of Red Cross. They are more able to listen and think clearly.
In some cases, a caseworker may have to downshift from Stabilize back to the Threshold phase when strong emotions emerge during discussion. This is the time to put the pen down and relate to the client on a more personal level. This change can happen at any moment, sometimes when clients have reached a point of safety and calm. Strong emotions can bubble up with surprising speed.
When we provide emergency funds to a client, Red Cross caseworkers should begin using skills at Mobilize to increase the likelihood that clients will use the funds we give them effectively. Caseworkers will not spend a lot of time with clients at Mobilize considering our role in responding to emergency needs.
As a Red Cross Disaster Action Team member (first responder) or family services caseworker, we are not likely to see clients who have achieved Transformation. Volunteers who work in shelters could see the beginning of a transformation. All of us have to realize that we can play a positive role in contributing to this outcome even though we are not likely to see evidence of this ultimate success.
If you are a Red Cross volunteer or staff, I'd love to hear any of your comments or insights about A Course on Helping. I would like to add your insights to this list.