Crisis Counseling, Not Therapy, Is What's Needed in the Wake of COVID-19

A Look at the Five Key Concepts of Crisis Counseling

Lloyd Sederer, MD

Lloyd Sederer, MD

Advisory Board Chair

Ensuring safety and promoting return to functioning, as well as being informed about immediately available resources, are the central objectives of crisis counseling.

5 Key Concepts of Crisis Counseling


  1. Strength-Based
  2. Employs Anonymity
  3. Outreach-Oriented
  4. Culturally Attuned
  5. Supporting Community Systems


The COVID-19 pandemic is a global disaster. We can expect it to impact the mental health of those affected (is anyone not?) – especially those who are the most vulnerable.

These are people who are homeless, individuals with mental and addictive disorders, those living in poverty, and without access to critical housing, food and healthcare.

GET HELP is designed to assist first responders, clinical and social services, and local, county and state governments to help those we know are in greatest need.

Previous disasters (like 9/11, Katrina and Sandy, and many others) have taught us about their mental health impact. And how to help the impacted population(s).

Please take a look at my Medscape Psychiatry article, Crisis Counseling, Not Therapy, Is What’s Needed in the Wake of COVID-19, published on April 8, 2020.

Your thoughts and comments are most welcome.


Lloyd I. Sederer, MD
Chair, Board of Advisors, GET HELP®

(A California Public Benefit Corporation)

Crisis Counseling, Not Therapy, Is What's Needed in the Wake of COVID-19

In the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the public mental health system in the New York City area mounted the largest mental health disaster response in history. I was New York City’s mental health commissioner at the time. We called the initiative Project Liberty and over 3 years obtained $137 million in funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to support it.

Through Project Liberty, New York established the Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program (CCP). And it didn’t take us long to realize that what affected people need following a disaster is not necessarily psychotherapy, as might be expected, but in fact crisis counseling, or helping impacted individuals and their families regain control of their anxieties and effectively respond to an immediate disaster. This proved true not only after 9/11 but also after other recent disasters, including Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. The mental health system must now step up again to assuage fears and anxieties—both individual and collective—around the rapidly spreading COVID-19 pandemic.


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