What is a Critical Incident Stress Debriefing?

Any unexpected, traumatic event at or outside of the workplace that affects employees’ feelings of personal safety, their ability to perform daily activities, and their ability to concentrate on their normal job duties. Examples include workplace robberies, assaults, accidents, domestic violence that affects the workplace, an unexpected death, acts of terror, suicide of an employee or natural disasters.




What is a Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD)?

When faced with a critical incident, a person’s normal coping abilities may be temporarily overwhelmed by the significant psychological reactions to an event. A CISD is a structured crisis intervention process led by a mental health professional specially trained in trauma interventions. CISDs are conducted with small groups of voluntary participants who were exposed to the traumatic event. Participants are assured confidentiality.

What to expect from a CISD?

CISDs are usually conducted 24 – 72 hours after the traumatic incident. Participation is voluntary and managers should ask employees if they would like to participate and not require attendance. CISDs typically last one to two hours depending on the number of participants, the intensity of the traumatic event, and the amount of discussion.


What are the main goals of a CISD?

  • Lower the tension and mitigate the group’s adverse reaction to a traumatic event.
  • Facilitate and accelerate the natural recovery process of those affected by the unusual event.
  • Identify employees within the group who may be in need of additional counseling services.