Our way of everyday life is constantly threatened by events that loom in the near future — including natural disasters, economic crashes, and health epidemics. Reports show that 60% of men and 50% of women will experience at least one traumatic event during their lifetime. Surprisingly, much of this trauma can occur in the formative years of life — 40% of children and adolescents are exposed to a crisis, even in their early age.

Learning The Language

Before we can offer emotional first aid throughout the healing process we must first understand the following terms: 


Emergency A serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action 

Crisis A time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger that can be experienced both immediately and over time 

Trauma It is not the event that determines whether something is traumatic to someone, but the individual’s experience of the event and the meaning they make of it.

Critical Incident (Event) An event that can potentially overwhelm one’s usual coping mechanisms, resulting in physiological distress and impairment 

Psychological Crisis (Response) An acute response to a crisis, trauma, disaster or other incident overpowers one’s usual coping mechanisms 

Crisis Intervention (Emotional First Aid) Crisis intervention targets the response to the event. Psychological first aid, goals to stabilize, symptom reduction, return to adaptive function, facilitate access to continued care. 

Iceberg Effect (80/20 Rule) During a crisis approximately only 20% of the people are affected both physically and emotionally, while the other 80% are emotionally impacted. 

Secondary Injury A secondary injury is when the person in the midst of a crisis doesn’t get the support they need during the event. 

Catastrophic Events A crisis can turn into a catastrophic event when these factors are involved: 

  • Intensity of loss
  • Presence of children
  • Hazard in the aftermath
  • Duration of event 
  • Media involvement 
  • Size of the community 
  • Safe place non-existent
support with emotional first aid

Providing Care & Emotional First Aid

We’ve covered the different terms from emotional first aid, and now we can respond with compassion and CARE to prevent further damage and suffering. 

It is the biggest gift that you can give someone. Acknowledging that they’re in pain, being there ready to listen, being open, and being available.

And that doesn’t mean just physically being there. That means looking at them. Really truly, opening up your heart. Allow the Holy Spirit to come through and be their cushion, be their safe place.

The CARES Model

Here at Seeking Hope, we have the CARES model. That’s what we use to go through all the steps to understand how we care for someone. Christ asked us to care for his children. But how do we do that? This model will help break down the steps and what we look at to care for those in crisis.


C – Connect

The ‘C’ stands for connect. Making a connection and establishing rapport with someone who cares, acknowledges, and provides support during the crisis help victims recover. It is important that you, as the responder, were not directly affected by the current event.

A – Assess

The letter ‘A’ in the CARES model is for assessing. A responders role is to assess the specific symptoms and help the person in crisis express their feelings. Asking thoughtful questions helps a crisis victim discover the root cause of their pain and dispel any myths about the situation. By assessing these things we can move forward, create a plan, and help  victims to know that there’s going to be balance and that they can find hope moving forward. 

R  – Reassure

The ‘R’ in the CARES model. For our client, it’s unrealistic, for us it’s reassuring. Our client is facing some unrealized and unrealistic expectations. They want a dead person to come back to life. They want this to be different. They want a job that disappeared to show up again.

Their expectations are not realistic at all. How do we help find them? By reassuring that they have an opportunity to find balance in the circumstance that they find themselves in. It’s not easy, but by reminding them that there is hope, there is a tomorrow, and how to get there, we’ll make it happen. Our presence alone creates an environment of strength, stability, and balance. That’s what reassuring does. That’s our ‘R’ in the CARES model.

E – Enduring

The ‘E’ in our CARES model is enduring.  We know that a crisis isn’t resolved instantly, and caring for victims of trauma includes enduring through the stages of grief. As we help them to endure, it gives them hope, help them find their psychological balance so that they can move forward and make their own decisions. We give them a time pace, so they don’t feel rushed. But show them that they can endure this horrible tragedy and still come out tomorrow. That’s our ‘E’ in CARES model.

S  – Spiritual

The final in CARES is the ‘S’ – spiritual. After experiencing a traumatic event, as caregivers, we can come along as their spiritual guide. By gently providing guidance, we can remind them of God’s promise that they are not alone in their crisis. We believe that true hope is found in God, and we can bring that hope and give them the sense that they can move forward. That’s the ‘S’ in CARES.  

friends help with emotional first aid

Learn how to help others through emotional crisis the healthy and safe way. Click here to download your free CARES card and guide. Having your own CARES card to reference any time helps you provide an appropriate and powerful response to those who are struggling with a trauma.