Psychological Services

Assessments in the Impact Phase

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Assessments in the Impact Phase

Assess the probable extent of loss, destruction and disruption in the community, its groups, leaders, hierarchies, networks, institutions and communications.

Is correct information available to and from the community?

Are existing emergency services effective?

Are new organizations and leaders emerging and how effective are they?

Are vulnerable groups safe and catered for?

Is spontaneous outside help appropriate, effective or are there unhelpful convergence phenomena?
Assess the extent to which the community is coping or needing professional help.
If psychological service providers are present in the impact phase of disasters, their assessments revolve on how to survive and preserve themselves and those around them. Assessments involve urgent issues around which strategies of survival to use, such as retrieval and saving family members, neutralising the disaster and escaping.
When not concerned with immediate survival needs, assessments and prioritisations are made of those in need of psychological first aid - the injured, shocked, stunned, confused, the isolated those who feel abandoned and those behaving inappropriately.
Usually assessments of impact phase are retrospective.

What family losses occurred?

What threats to life and destruction were experienced and witnessed?

How did the family survive?

To what extent did family members become separated?

How were separations handled?

What life saving, competent, altruistic acts occurred with what gratitude, within families and between families (e.g., neighbours)?


What strains in rescue and protection occurred with what anguish or resentment?

Assess survival needs and which survival strategies were attempted from moment to moment.

Were they successful or not?

To what extent did the individual believe they or their loved ones would die? What strains were present regarding the “survival calculus” that is calculations balancing personal and others’ survival needs?

What were the eventual losses?

How much shock and dissociation (disbelief, denial, derealisation,
depersonalisation) were experienced?

Which physical, cognitive, emotional social or spiritual experiences stand/stood out from others and how were they interpreted?
Attachment is the major survival strategy available to otherwise helpless children.

How secure is/was attachment?

Did the child think that it, its parents or others would die?

How much separation is/was there physically and emotionally from protective figures?

What other survival strategies did the child attempt?
Did the child try to rescue parents, pets or toys?
Did the child help and how effectively?

What are/were the ultimate losses, including pets, dolls and toys?

How much did the child absorb of what was happening or to what extent was it defended, for instance dissociated?

What were the salient events the child witnessed and how were they interpreted?
In the child’s eyes, were monsters causing the havoc?

Did the child interpret that its parents had abandoned it, that the child had caused the traumatic event, or that aspects of the events were a punishment for the child’s misdeeds?

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