Psychological Services

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Who Should Assess

Assessment being a complex specialist process, it should be done by service providers skilled to do so. Skills required by service providers have been described in chapter 4 (Psychological Service Providers). Having considered general aspects of assessments they will now be applied to specific situations.

The following section provides guidelines on assessment procedures for specific social groups at different disaster phases.
It should be noted that:

The underlying intention is to assess needs at any given time at any given level so as to specifically match them with appropriate interventions.

This can only be an approximation as both phases and social systems overlap and impact on each other in a dynamic system. For instance,
events in one phase influence those in subsequent ones and social systems impact on each other.
Disaster Phases
For the purpose of these guidelines the following definitions of disaster phases and social system levels will be used. (They are consistent with those in the AEM Disaster Recovery). The phases considered are broadly preimpact, impact, post impact and recovery and reconstruction.
Preimpact Phase

Preimpact phase is the time before the disaster strikes. It is the time for putting into effect lessons from past disasters and for training and preparation. As the disaster approaches, it is the time for warnings and possible evacuation.

Impact Phase
Sometimes called the heroic phase, it is the time during and immediately after the disaster strikes when people use strategies of survival to save themselves and others and to preserve possessions.
Postimpact Phase
When the immediate threats of the disaster wane, the first part of the postimpact phase is characterised by joy of survival, strong egalitarian and generous bonds among survivors, strong sympathy and help from outside and a sense of optimism about quickly returning to predisaster circumstances. This period is also called “the honeymoon phase”.
The phase of disillusionment follows as the difficulties of coming to terms with losses and rebuilding become apparent. Much frustration with scarce resources, bureaucracy and diminishing help may be accompanied by community tensions. As people try to assimilate their disaster experiences they may have a sense of still being immersed,
reverberating or being assailed by images, responses, judgements and meanings from the disaster.

Recovery and Reconstruction
Physical and environmental reconstruction and replacement is accompanied by passage of identity from victim to survivor where individuals and communities resume responsibility for themselves and their disaster story. Disaster responses, their judgments and meanings are worked through into overarching wisdom. Yet unresolved griefs,

entrenched stress responses, maladaptive defences, may evolve in this stage into symptoms and illnesses or may emerge in a delayed form in previously apparently well functioning people.

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