Critical Incident Stress Management

Virginia Law Enforcement Assistance Program offers Critical Incident Stress Management services (CISM) to law enforcement personnel. Our Law Enforcement Peer Support Team will coordinate services at a  location convenient for the requesting agency or individual(s) and can provide immediate peer support of personnel, assess need for Defusing, Debriefing or both. A Defusing is a brief meeting, typically 30 to 60 minutes, intended to stabilize people affected by a critical incident so that they may return to normal routines. These meetings will normally take place 3-8 hours following the event, prior to personnel being released to return home. During the next few days, the requesting party will work very closely with VALEAP’s peer team to plan appropriate crisis intervention. A typical Peer Support Team consists mainly of sworn law enforcement and a mental health professional; law enforcement chaplains frequently participate in the process as well. All responding team members will be trained in crisis intervention. Virginia Law Enforcement Assistance Program follows a model of crisis management known as The Mitchell Model, named for Jeffrey Mitchell, Ph.D. More information on this stress management model is available on the website for the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation found at:

What is a Critical Incident?

There is no clear definition of a critical incident or event; frequently that designation falls to the individual(s) who experienced it. There are some common event types that qualify as critical incidents, which may include:

A. Line of Duty Death of an Officer

B. Suicide of an Officer/Family Member

C. Multi-Casualty Incident/Disaster

D. Significant Event Involving Children

E. Knowing the Victim of an Event

F. Serious Line of Duty Injury

G. Law Enforcement Shooting Incident

H. Excessive Media Interest

I. Prolonged Incident With Loss

K. Any Significant Event involving Law Enforcement

Ten Specific Elements of CISM

The structure of Critical Incident Stress Management response is often unique to each event, just as no two events are truly the same. VALEAP’s Peer Support Team will work with requesting agencies or individuals to custom-tailor a response. The elements of CISM response are listed below, and may be used in countless combinations to suit a given situation.

1. Pre-Incident Education

2. Demobilization (used in large scale events/disasters)

3. Crisis Management Briefing (large groups of primary responders)

4. Defusings (used with small groups within 3-8 hours of incident)

5. Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (group of primary responders)

6. One-on-One Crisis Intervention (typically officer to officer)

7. Family CISM (support of law enforcement families following a critical event)

8. Organizational Consultation (consultation on policies, procedures, standards, etc.)

9. Pastoral Crisis Intervention (use of clergy in crisis intervention)

10. Follow-up and Referral of Officers for further care.

To request VALEAP-facilitated CISM services or to learn more about becoming a team member, please contact Adam Blevins. Adam’s information may be found on the CONTACT US tab above.