To prepare for EPSC best practice in post-disaster settings, here is what every minister should know before disaster strikes:
WHO YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Your top five therapy referrals -- these are PhDs/ PsyDs / MFTs / LCSWs (and any other similar accreditation) that you are in relationship with, whom you trust, and, ideally, who you would go to yourself for in-depth healing.
Your top three group care referrals -- youth and family services? ymca? community center? what is working really well in your local area or region, and how can you be in working or neighborly relationship with them?
Your local First Responders -- who is your sheriff? fire chief? chief of police? emergency manager? It is good to know their name, be aware of who they are, and be on the look out for information from them in times of crises. If they are members of your congregation, it is important to be getting to know how first responders receive effective care (it is different than care of general citizens), so that you are prepared to provide care that works in times of crises.
* the three categories above are not only professionals you will refer to, receive information from, or provide specialized care for, but they are also the cadre you may draw from if your congregation hosts congregational education meetings following an incident*
Your fellow clergy -- who are your neighbor leaders? In times of community-wide crises, it is likely that clergy will face common personal experiences. Being able to connect with one another and recognize what aspects of crisis-response you have in common can create a reliable support colleagueship that can sustain you both throughout the long-term restoration processes.
Your town or city officials -- who is mayor or city-select-person? who are your judges? who is on your city or town council? It is helpful, at least, to have a working knowledge of their names and roles, if not have shaking their hand before. As with first-responders, be on the look out for information they provide following crises, and be considerate about specialized care they may require if they are members of your congregation.
Your education leaders -- who is the superintendent and the principles? who is on the school board? Again, have a working knowledge of names and roles. Be on the look out for information they may provide after crises, and be considerate about specialized care they may require if they are members of your congregation.
This information is key not only for ministers but for administrative staff persons as well. The more fluid communication and contacts can be made in post-disaster situations, the more easily unique structures for effective long-term care can be utilized when they are needed most.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED:
Before disaster strikes, participate in professional group gatherings. These may include:
- Participating in Ministerial or Clergy Groups
- Accepting Invitations for Clergy and Community Leaders to meet with School Officials (for example, some school boards or officials host regular clergy meetings to inform faith leaders about school district developments, or city officials host community leader meetings to inform about city developments)
- Hosting or participating in therapy alliance groups
Showing up to these events prior to disaster can help "put names with faces" and make for swifter connections in times of crises and post-disaster care.
WHAT TO MAKE:
Following a disaster, three things are most helpful for community-wide healing: Education, Information, and Relationships
To help provide for these practices, congregations can:
- Host vigils and memorials
- Host informative congregation or community meetings on topics related to the crisis (violence, ordinary judicial practices, mental health, therapy, care of children and youth, insurance practices, etc.). These meetings can be led by panels, which may include a clergy member, a city or law enforcement official, a first responder, a therapist, a member from the board of education, or other pertinent professionals. The meetings should be weighted toward question and answer times for attendees, and stick to basic facts about the case, general facts about the topics, and describe practical next steps.
- Provide education or pathways for obtaining useful therapy which may include informational brochures with contact information for hotlines or counseling centers and classes or group sessions led by skilled professionals.
- Host safe and restorative fellowship events
*To learn more about how your congregation can become a more trauma-informed system, visit the ICTG Training menu today. You'll be glad you did!