3 PSYCHOLOGICAL SERVICES IN THE DISASTER CONTEXT GUIDELINES FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL SERVICES PRACTICE 1. INTRODUCTION The need for guidelines for psychological services practice is evidenced by the different context in which psychological services need to be delivered to disaster affected persons. In the disaster context, psychological services are delivered within a community structure which is typically disrupted whereas these services are normally delivered within a functioning social structure in an orderly patterned existence. Where formal intervention is required it is usually delivered in a clinical, office based setting. Disaster generates varying degrees of chaos and renders many everyday systems and coping mechanisms dysfunctional or impotent. Service delivery therefore has to be flexible, mobile and creative. As psychological services inform all aspects of disaster management services, guidelines for the delivery of psychological services have been developed in two publications – Guidelines for Psychological Services Practice and Guidelines for Disaster Management Practice. This publication, Guidelines for Psychological Services Practice has been developed to assist the delivery of psychological services practice in the disaster context by appropriately qualified practitioners. The purpose of these guidelines is to offer practitioners with insights, principles and strategies in key facets of assessment and delivery of psychological services in the disaster context. They aim to facilitate recovery,
ensure ethical practice and to protect victims and support workers in their respective roles and have been endorsed by the Australasian Society for
Traumatic Stress Studies. These guidelines have been developed to supplement the information available in the Australian Emergency Manual – Disaster Recovery and the Community and Personal Support Guidelines within the Australian Emergency Management series.
4 While the overviews in these documents provide adequate information on recovery processes and likely helpful activities, further information is considered necessary for those involved in the provision of psychological services. Because of the increased amount and sophistication of such information, it was deemed necessary to develop these guidelines. To that effect, the Disaster Recovery Sub-committee of the Community Services Ministers Advisory Council (then the Standing Committee of Community Services and Income Security Administrators) and The Australasian Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, with funding under the National Studies Program of Emergency Management Australia, formed a steering committee which identified key areas to be addressed. Participants at a subsequent workshop represented a cross- section of managers and service providers from the range of government and non-government agencies involved in the delivery of psychological services in the disaster context. Professional disciplines represented included psychiatry, psychology, social work and related fields. The steering committee collated the data from the workshop in development of these guidelines. In addition, they draw on the Mental Health National Action Plan, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists
Position Statement 35 on the Role of Psychiatrists in Disasters, the Victoria
Disaster Support and Recovery Unit discussion paper on Personal Support Guidelines and the World Health Organisation project on disaster management. These guidelines should be read not only by those providing psychological services, but also by all involved government departments, agencies and individuals. Although these guidelines have been produced to encourage consistency in the delivery of psychological services in an Australian context, that is, across the boundaries of States, government and non-government organisations and professional disciplines, the prevailing management systems must be respected. It must be understood too, that psychological services are but part of a broader recovery process with which they need to integrate. It is acknowledged that the body of knowledge in these Guidelines is in the process of development and consequently this document is a dynamic document intended to be reviewed and updated periodically or as new information comes to light. Key topics addressed in these guidelines include: • The role of psychological service providers in disaster management, • The basis for the provision of psychological services, • Assessment and appraisal, • Interventions, • Service Provision, and • Research. In these guidelines the terms “disaster” and “emergency” are synonymous.