Defusing Sessions Available through Starr Commonwealth

As Starr Commonwealth continues to answer the call for services and support during the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for crisis defusing for both children and professionals has become clear. Utilizing our nationwide reach, Starr has begun offering these services for individuals and organizations through virtual meetings. Below, Starr Director of Behavioral Health Becca Gerlach explains both the need for defusing as well as what professionals can implement immediately to help the children they care for. If you are interested in defusing sessions for yourself, your loved one, or your organization, please fill out this form and a Starr Behavioral Health representative will contact you shortly.

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Learn more about defusing sessions through Starr


What is defusing, and where would these sessions fit in the crisis response timeline?

Defusing is both supportive and educational. Its purpose is not to process or explore feelings, nor to allow for the ventilation of feelings (this happens 1:1 and after 4 weeks has passed). Why? This process prevents participants from revealing more about themselves than they wish to in a group and also protects the other participants from being exposed to others emotional intensity that may further dysregulate them. Through defusing, we allow participants to know they are not alone, normalize thoughts and reactions, educate participants about what they may experience in the following days/weeks, and provide referral resources should they wish to talk with someone in the future. When defusing, the sooner after an event the better so people can begin to cope more effectively and plan for the future while holding the unknowns. However, during ongoing situations like COVID-19, any time is appropriate for defusing.

Who can benefit from defusing?

Anyone who is feeling stressed and unsure what is next. There are many unknowns right now— especially for our educators and their students. We want to offer a space to process and check in, to make sure we as professionals are in a good headspace before diving back in to teach or help kids. This is a service we are able to offer to anyone in the United States.

How do I know if we're ready for defusing, or the steps following defusing?

Defusing is for all of us right now. COVID-19 has created an ongoing traumatic event, and none of us are quite sure what our afters look like yet. But there was a before that has passed. Many of us may have also experienced losses of many kinds during this time, whether friends or family members, or events and things we were looking forward to, or even just our normal routines.  After defusing, we offer whole staff training, reflection groups, and more.

What are the most important factors to consider when defusing? What can readers begin to do immediately, even before a defusing session?

Crisis intervention is the appropriate intervention for the first few days, however we want that crisis intervention to be framed within a trauma informed context. Appropriate crisis intervention is designed to meet the basic needs of people in crisis and then help them discover or realize they have the strength and resilience to cope with what they have experienced. This also involves helping them regulate their emotional and physiological reactions.

The most important mindset in crisis intervention is one that is survivor focused, curious and able to shift thinking from victim to survivor thinking. When we allow what is learned about how survivors are experiencing the current experience and what matters most to them, we will succeed at helping them feel better and will promote healing.

In addition, the professional can normalize their own and others reactions, and begin to think about how to create new routines. Utilizing self-care plans like those available in Starr’s Practicing Resilience course is a great place to start!

Starr Commonwealth is currently offering both Trauma-Informed Resilient Schools (education focus) and Children of Trauma & Resilience (clinical focus) free of charge. These courses provide powerful context to trauma and toxic stress in children and how professionals can begin to help the healing process. Starr Commonwealth also offers telehealth services in the state of Michigan for anyone who may need further assistance.

What can Starr offer other clinics and agencies?

With our combined years of experience, particularly in trauma treatment, we are well equipped to assist you in your growth as a clinician. We would be happy to work with you for ongoing supervision, case consultation if working with a difficult case, or to meet the licensing requirements of the State of Michigan.

We can also provide consultation on building a trauma informed clinical program, how to select the right materials, and training to meet your or your agencies needs to best serve your clients.

Trauma work requires the clinician to be reflective and take care of oneself to prevent secondary trauma and burn out. We can support you in this! My own clinical supervision that I have continued beyond my licensing requirement is the best investment I have made in my development as a clinician, a supervisor, and now a director of behavioral health. I meet with my supervisor every other week, and she sorts out challenging cases with me, holds space for me, and offers insight and feedback on how to best supervise and support my team.

Anyone interested in consultation or supervision can contact us at sbh@starr.org.

By Matt Ray


About Starr Commonwealth

Starr Commonwealth is dedicated to the mission to lead with courage to create positive experiences so that all children, families, and communities flourish. We specialize in residential, community-based, educational, and professional training programs that build on the strengths of children, adults, and families in communities around the world. To schedule a training or consultation, please contact info@starr.org or call 800-837-5591.