Emergency psychologist: look at its importance and functions

An emergency psychologist evaluates the situation that arose and tries to show empathy and support to the affected people. Provide a listening space.

Last update: 25 September, 2022

When we think of catastrophic situations, we must also think of the possibility of psychological trauma. These are exceptional situations that alter the daily course of things. Therefore, the role of an emergency psychologist is essential.

Your role is to contain what others are feeling and be the “thinking head” that helps to order and organize. Let’s see what its other functions are.

The importance of the emergency psychologist

Emergency psychologists are those who provide psychological first aid. The response capacity and attention that a person receives as soon as an impact occurs is essential for their subsequent recovery.

Hence the importance of the role of the emergency psychologist. In a first instance, ensure the safety and containment of victims.

In a second instance, it offers the space for them to connect with their own personal coping resources. In turn, it is a facilitator of grieving processes, whatever the cause (loss of a loved one, material goods, uprooting). Especially, in those cases in which defenses such as avoidance or denial are activated.

Catastrophes cause losses at different levels. The processing of them is key to continue with life.


Among the main functions and objectives of its task we find the following:

  • Reduce the initial stress levelcaused by trauma.
  • Offer security in multiple ways. For example, stabilizing those who are in shockpromoting the removal of the person from the disaster area, meeting the basic needs of hunger, thirst, hygiene, shelter.
  • help make decisionsto organize and find solutions.
  • Assess the needs and psycho-emotional impact of the victims.
  • Facilitate recovery and subsequent rehabilitation.
  • Evaluate the existence of a containment and support network, recommending spaces and resources for this purpose.
  • Encourage adaptation to the new circumstances that arise.
  • Promote coping strategies. In this way, people are encouraged to regain control over their lives.
  • Analyze the situation of the victims and anticipate forecasts and scenarios. If necessary, propose a follow-up.

How does an emergency psychologist work?

First of all, an emergency psychologist acts from serenity and calm. Although he is a person and has emotions, he learns to manage them so as not to load more tension at the critical moment.

It even maintains temperance in those cases in which there are “overwhelmed” people. Self-control and vocation are essential qualities in the work of these professionals.

On the other hand, he also acts in a measured manner. He is capable of offering help, but also of respecting privacy, of being close without invading.

Work with empathy, adapting to different situations. That is, it is able to identify who is the person to whom it must assist. The needs of a child or an older adult in a disaster are not the same.

It is also able to make a reading regarding the society where it provides assistance. There are some cultures where some practices or suggestions would not be accepted.

An emergency psychologist works from listening, addressing concerns and concerns. He doesn’t make false promises, but he doesn’t offer an outright “no” to requests either.

The work of the emergency psychologist is very different from that of the office psychologist. The context is completely different and the times are also dissimilar.

4 key actions of an emergency psychologist

We can say that the actions of an emergency psychologist are synthesized in 4 actions:

  1. Set up: is informed about what happened and looks for resources (brochures, recommendations of assistance centers, government aid) that can accompany the response.
  2. Look: performs a general analysis of the situation and adapts. It also observes individual and group behaviors. It seeks to promote the safety of people. It facilitates emotional comfort and a feeling of protection.
  3. Listen: try to be attentive to needs, validate emotions and responses. do not judge Explain to people that all reactions are “normal” and invite them to express themselves freely. He points out that what is “abnormal” or exceptional is the emergency or catastrophe situation.
  4. Connect: he asks the person for his name and refers to him that way. She shows empathy, acts with a vocation for service. It helps the victim to focus on the present moment, trying to alleviate her future worries. Promotes a climate of trust.

Caring for those who care

A very important aspect to note is that emergency psychologists are dedicated to caring for people in times of great stress. Therefore, his daily task oscillates between adrenaline and extreme situations.

In this sense, it is necessary to resort to the idea of ​​”caring for those who care” to avoid syndromes of burnout. These consist of extreme exhaustion, due to a situation of sustained stress for a prolonged period.

We can take as a close reference the burnout suffered by health personnel during the pandemic. It was an unprecedented circumstance, which occurred on a planetary scale, persistent and with little knowledge and certainty about how to act. We still find its visible consequences in situations of anxiety, anguish and unresolved grief.

It is necessary to provide spaces for rest and self-care, opportunities for support and containment for those who carry out this task. Opposite case, we run the risk of feeling depersonalized.

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