Emotional Impacts of Disaster

For more than 30 years, mental health provider Dr. Nancy Bohl-Penrod has focused her counseling on emergency responders and those who have experienced disaster. Dr. Nancy Bohl-Penrod has also facilitated professional training programs and consultations to help professionals facilitate post-disaster debriefing.

When disaster occurs, the psychological ramifications last long after the event. Disasters shake a person’s world view and introduce a sense of vulnerability that can affect daily life for years. Experts have found that most individuals possess a naturally developed sense of safety and a belief in the world as logical. Disaster, whether natural or unnatural, challenges this lifelong assumption and, in many cases, makes the world seem threatening. This leads to a broad range of psychological disruptions, many of which do not even begin to affect daily life until significantly after the event. Such disruptions include sleep disturbances, trouble concentrating, tearful outbursts, and feelings of numbness.

For this reason, the first key coping mechanism for disaster victims is awareness. By accepting that emotional disturbances will arise and noticing them when they do, the affected individual may be more likely to address these disturbances rather than being confused by them. Effective coping skills will vary according to the needs of the individual person, but most often include remaining busy, staying physically active, and relying on social supports. Mental health professionals, when accessible, can also indicate which coping skills are appropriate to a particular situation.

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American Red Cross Supports US Armed Forces in Iraq, Afghanistan

Dr. Nancy Bohl-Penrod has 30 years of experience providing psychotherapy to emergency personnel and victims of disasters. In addition, Dr. Nancy Bohl-Penrod served with the American Red Cross during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. Dr. Nancy Bohl earned her PhD in clinical psychology from the California Graduate Institute in Los Angeles.

The American Red Cross’ partnership with the U.S. military traces its roots to Red Cross founder Clara Barton and her colleagues’ treatment of soldiers during the Spanish-American War. In more recent years, Red Cross members have appeared with U.S. forces in the Middle East and other parts of the globe.

In Operation Desert Storm, 158 Red Cross staff traveled to the Middle East while their colleagues stateside helped the families of U.S. service members. During this time, seven American Red Cross workers won the Bronze Star, the military’s fourth highest award, for their service.

During Operation Enduring Freedom, the Red Cross set up operations in Afghanistan with a main office at Bagram Air Force Base. Supporting a team of 73 individuals, the facility processed more than 59,000 emergency messages during the main phase of its operations between December 2002 and July 2011. Still open today, the Red Cross office maintains a canteen, a library, and a video center.

Meanwhile during Operation Iraqi Freedom, which began in 2003, Red Cross members deployed alongside U.S. forces in Iraq. Living under the same harsh conditions as American soldiers, they distributed hundreds of thousands of supplies (such as toiletries and cards for families) and emergency messages. The Red Cross also operates offices in Kuwait and the Republic of Djibouti.

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Types of Therapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Nancy Bohl-Penrod, PhD, provides mental health and counseling services in and near San Bernardino, California. While Dr. Nancy Bohl-Penrod has worked with many different types of individuals, she specializes in working with those who provide emergency services, such as firefighters, paramedics, and police officers.

It is not uncommon for emergency personnel to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, after a particularly frightening or traumatic event. A number of different treatment methods exist for PTSD. One of the more common methods, cognitive behavioral therapy, is widely considered to be one of the most effective. This type of therapy involves making connections between thinking patterns and stressful emotions.

Other treatment approaches to PTSD include exposure therapy and group therapy. In exposure therapy, the individual talks about the event or perhaps, over time, visits the location of the event in order to fear it less. In group therapy, the individual shares his thoughts with others who have experienced something similar. Talking with a therapist about treatment options can help a person with PTSD begin the type of therapy that is right for her and get her life back.

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Impact of Officer Involved Shootings

The proprietor of a private practice in San Bernardino, California, Dr. Nancy Bohl-Penrod has treated patients as a psychotherapist for 30 years. Focused on assisting first-responders such as law enforcement officers, Dr. Nancy Bohl-Penrod has studied the emotional impact of officer-involved shootings.

Police officers may be placed in dangerous positions that require them to use firearms or other types of deadly force. To prepare for such an occurrence, law enforcement agencies should develop policies that can emotionally support the officer. This involves establishing pre-incident preparation plans, at-the-scene/immediately-following plans, and long-term plans.

Before a shooting incident, departments should learn about the psychological and emotional ramifications to officers who are engaged in a traumatic incident. This may require hiring a psychological professional trained in treating individuals following a trauma and who can educate agency personnel on relevant methodologies. At the scene, these practitioners should focus on alleviating the emotional and physical stress faced by the officers by taking them away from the location and avoiding media and other unwanted attention. During the investigation process, psychological professionals can provide assistance, teach the officers healthy coping mechanisms, and decide whether any are ready to return to duty.

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The AAETS Recognizes Expertise in Traumatic Intervention Specialists

Based in San Bernardino, California, Dr. Nancy Bohl-Penrod has served as the director of The Counseling Team International for nearly three decades. Dr. Nancy Bohl-Penrod holds membership in several professional organizations, including the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress (AAETS).

An international membership organization, the AAETS is composed of individuals from a range of professions who provide intervention to survivors of traumatic events. The AAETS seeks to identify expertise among those professionals and provide the standards by which they can improve their trauma intervention practices.

In pursuit of this goal, the AAETS offers 17 specialty certifications in the areas of traumatic stress and crisis management. Members applying for AAETS credentials must meet minimum standards that demonstrate their knowledge, experience, and training in the specialty area. Additionally, AAETS members in good standing who have made significant contributions to the field and to the Academy may apply for diplomate and fellowship status through the AAETS.

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Critical Incident Stress Foundation to Host 2013 Regional Conference




With nearly three decades of experience in psychotherapy and incident stress management, Nancy Bohl-Penrod, PhD, presently owns and directs The Counseling Team International in San Bernardino, California. Beyond her professional responsibilities, Dr. Nancy Bohl actively participates in a number of industry organizations, including the American Psychological Association and the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, for whom she serves as a certified trainer.

The International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF) is preparing for its 2013 Regional Conference, which is scheduled to take place December 4-8, 2013, at the Crowne Plaza San Diego Mission Valley in San Diego, California. The conference will provide attendees an opportunity to earn continuing education credits and to discuss topics such as strategies for individual and group crisis intervention; preparation for crises in the workplace; how to manage crises in school situations; and suicide awareness and response.

The ICISF is an organization dedicated to providing education, leadership, training, and support services to emergency response professionals, communities, and other organizations worldwide. The organization’s support services include behavioral health resources in disaster situations and comprehensive crisis intervention. The ICISF hosts local and regional conferences throughout the year to provide attendees with additional training in disaster response, emergency services, mental health, and traumatic stress, among other areas.

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