Psychological Services


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Psychological service providers need to be able to conceptualise the needs of affected communities and to deliver the services according to the three dimensional framework.
Psychological service providers should be able to assess

The adequacy and capacity of existing community agencies to undertake necessary tasks,

The capacities and dynamics of the service provider community, and

The capacity of available resources to meet identified and emergent needs.
Integration of psychological services needs to be maintained by regular network meetings with management. Integration of proven and trusted service providers may reduce convergence by a multitude of service providers unfamiliar with specific requirements in disasters.
Critical to the success of any aspect of the recovery process is effective inter and intra agency coordination, communication and role clarity. To facilitate effective communication between agencies, providers of psychological services need to meet regularly to undertake a range of tasks, including:

Coordinating and streamlining assessments and intervention outcome information,

Ensuring effective coordination of ongoing services, and

Planning for timely withdrawal of services.
In the absence of current accreditations for specialised psychological service providers and the frequency of unsolicited groups and individuals who offer psychological services in disaster areas, the following guidelines are offered to assess the suitability of psychological service providers for disaster work.

The guidelines should be used by organisations and individuals who contemplate offering psychological services to disaster areas and by managers who may need to determine the suitability of those proffering help at disaster sites. In the latter situation managers should also consult senior psychological service personnel trained in disaster work.

Broadly, similar principles apply to assessment of psychological service providers as to those who offer other specialist emergency management services.

As a guide, the following questions should be answered satisfactorily with respect to those wanting to help:

To what extent have they had prior experience, training and ability to perform the specialised psychological services in disasters described in these guidelines?

If not specially disaster trained, to what extent do individuals/groups have a secure professional identity (such as psychiatrist, clinical psychologist, social worker, etc.), matured professional experience and skills, knowledge of their own limitations and a secure supportive agency and work- base which will enable the workers to stay as long as needed?

Will they have sufficient rosters and supports to give continual service? Will they have capacity to travel to disaster sites and work out of hours in less than optimal conditions?

What are their coping styles, defences and blind spots? How have they coped in previous disasters and with personal disasters? Have their own traumas been attended?

Do they have the necessary flexibility, ingenuity, and capacities to prioritise?

To what extent will they fit with the culture of the population, other emergency and recovery service workers and with the community and established psychological services?

To what extent do they have group process skills?

Will they accept lines of responsibility and accountability within the disaster management framework? Do they understand the prevailing State Emergency Management arrangements?

Do they accept self-monitoring concepts (debriefs, supervision)?

Will they have supervision by more senior people suitably trained and experienced in emergency and trauma work?

Will they maintain proper duty of care in the context of informed consent and confidentiality? Can they balance the need to communicate with other services and avoid duplication, yet maintain the privacy rights of their clients? Can they curtail imposition of unwanted help?

Are they bound by professional ethics of their own association?
Will they accept the ethics of the managing agency and the ethical guidelines for trauma work

Do they accept that their prime responsibility is to the affected population, not third parties?

Will they declare other interests and their source of remuneration?

These considerations will help to assess the extent to which the potential service providers’ skills capacities and attributes can fulfill needed roles and match the needs of particular disaster populations at particular times.
If it is assessed that those offering their services can be utilised for psychological services, they should be assisted to establish themselves into existing networks with their skill levels matched to appropriate tasks. All service providers should be monitored, supervised and given opportunities to deal with their stresses during their tours of duty.

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