Special skills are required of psychological service providers to self-monitor their own feelings, stresses and functioning. This ensures maintenance of their own health and effectiveness and of the principle “First do no harm”. Specialist training is required to discern and appropriately act on the wide range of biopsychosocial stress responses evoked in providers during assessment and interventions. For instance, intense emotions and sensations may need to be appraised either as information about other persons’ states, or as reflecting one’s own stress responses. Such appraisals facilitate measured professional intervention rather than acting on unprocessed instinctive responses. Because empathy requires receptivity, openness and reverberation with others, monitoring of one’s responses by self, peer group and supervisors is necessary. This can prevent being over-identified, over-committed and overburdened and thus becoming a secondary victim and a burden on those supposed to being helped. The intense relationships developed with those being helped in disasters also requires ethical monitoring, in addition to the usual mental health professional ones. (See Appendix C for the code of ethics of the Australasian Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.) In summary, specialist psychological services are needed in disasters, in order to: • Recognize, assess and deal with different dimensions of biological, psychological and social stresses outside the usual paradigms. • Deal with unstructured and exacting logistical and organizational demands.
• Be able to liaise properly with other workers and interact advantageously with management. • Be able to productively self-monitor oneself and one’s organisation.