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Crisis Intervention Using the Internet

Rick A. Myer, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Department of Counseling, School Psychology, and Special Education

Duquesne University

Pittsburgh, PA

The use of the telephone has become an established strategy for helping clients in crisis. The first telephone crisis hotline was established inl906 by the National Save-A-Life League to prevent suicide (Bloom, 1984). Spurred by the community mental health movement and legislative mandates, the use of the telephone has become a mainstay in crisis intervention Kleespies & Blackburn, 1998). Currently, numerous programs (e.g., domestic violence, sexual assault) in all areas of the country utilize the telephone as the first, and sometime primary, contact with clients. An abundance of research evaluating various intervention models has been conducted that demonstrate the effectiveness of using the telephone for crisis intervention (e.g., Echterling & Hartsough, 1989; Echerling, Hartsough, & Zarle, 1980; Mishara & Daigle, 1992). Therefore, a safe assumption is that crisis intervention using the telephone is here to stay.

Kleespies and Blackburn (1998) suggest that one reason for the growth of the telephone as a tool for crisis intervention is the increase in the number of households with telephones from 40% in 1940 to over 97% in the 1980's. The implication is that as technology advanced, crisis intervention programs took advantage by embracing this technology as a tool for helping clients. Undeniably, crisis workers overcame the barriers

This presentation explores ways computers might be used to enhance the effectiveness of crisis intervention programs. The growth in the purchase and use of personal computers is expected to continue, along with increased access to the World Wide Web. A key element in arguing for the use of the World Wide Web, E mail, arid similar technology is the same that was used for the telephone. That is, the goal is to provide empathic listening, mobilize personal resources, effectively problem-solve, provide support, and offer other appropriate referrals (Gilmore, 1984). Can new technologies accomplish these goals as effectively as the telephone? Yet, ethical questions arid concerns about the limitations of not seeing or hearing clients must be addressed. These issues and others will be discussed during the presentation.


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