FACT SHEET – Disaster Counseling Tips
LISTENING AND GUIDING ARE KEY Survivors typically benefit from
? talking about their disaster experiences
? being assisted with problem-solving
? getting referrals to resources
Rapport refers to the feelings of interest and
understanding that develop when genuine
concern is shown. You can create rapport by
? presenting calmness and compassion
? listening with your heart
? conveying respect and a
nonjudgmental manner TIPS FOR ACTIVE LISTENING Disaster workers listen most effectively when they take in information through the eyes and
“extrasensory radar” to better understand the survivor’s situation and needs. Some tips
for listening include:
? Allow silence. Silence gives the survivor time to reflect and become aware of
feelings. Silence can prompt the survivor to elaborate. Simply “being with” the
survivor and his/hers experience is supportive.
? Attend nonverbally. Eye contact, head nodding, caring facial expressions, and
occasional “uh-huhs” let survivors know that you are in tune with them.
? Paraphrase. When you repeat portions of what the survivor has said, understanding,
interest, and empathy are conveyed. Paraphrasing also checks for accuracy, clarifies
misunderstanding, and lets the survivor know that he or she is being heard. Good
– “So you are saying that…”
– “I have heard you say that…”
? Reflect feelings. You may notice that the survivor’s tone of voice or nonverbal
gestures suggest anger, sadness, or fear. Possible responses are, “You sound angry,
scared, etc. Does that fit for you?” This helps the survivor identify and articulate his
or her emotions.
FACT SHEET – Disaster Counseling Tips (continued)
? Allow expression of emotions. Expressing intense emotions through tears or angry
venting is an important part of healing. It often helps the survivor work through
feelings so that he or she can better engage in constructive problemsolving. You
should stay relaxed, breathe, and let survivors know that it is OK to feel the emotions
they are feeling.
SOME DO’S AND DON’TS
? These are normal reactions to a disaster.
? It is understandable that you feel this way.
? You are not going crazy.
? It wasn’t your fault, you did the best you could.
? Things may never be the same, but they will get better, and you will feel better.
The desire to try to fix a survivor’s painful situation or make the survivor feel better often
underlies the following “Don’t say” list. Often, these “Don’ts” make the survivor feel
discounted, not understood, or more alone. It is best when workers allow survivors to
share their experiences, feelings, and perspectives.
? It could have been worse.
? You can always get another pet/car/house.
? It’s best if you just stay busy.
? I know just how you feel.
? You need to get on with your life.