CAPS Crisis Response Team

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The CAPS Crisis Response Team (CRT) focuses on the mental health needs of students and offers guidance to staff and faculty in times of crisis or trauma. These interventions are done for groups of students and determined by several factors including time since the incident has occurred, size of the group, and impact on those who need support. The approach to campus responses is based on Critical Incident Stress Management theory, best-practice standards, and experience.  For students in need of individual (one on one) counseling support, our Counselor on Duty services are available when CAPS is open. Please feel free to reach out for consultation or questions.

A critical incident, for CAPS purposes, is defined quite broadly. It is an event that may cause a temporary state of psychological unrest with a reaction causing a state of emotional turmoil. A critical incident can be a sudden, powerful event outside of the range of ordinary human experience. It has the potential to overwhelm the usual effective coping skills of either an individual or a group. While there are many types of critical incidents on a college campus (see Dean of Students for additional resources and consultation), the following are examples of the kinds of incidents to which CAPS is prepared to respond.

  • Death (accident, suicide, etc) of a student, faculty, or staff member
  • ​Traumatic injury such a student being injured in a car accident
  • Hate crimes
  • Acts of Violence
  • National or local tragedies
  • Campus emergencies such as residence hall fires

Please contact CAPS via phone at 734 764 8312 or [email protected]. Responding quickly and in an appropriate manner can make the difference between healing and long-term psychological distress. Individual urgent walk-in crisis counseling is always available and more information about that service can be found HERE.

Response Team Intervention

As a faculty or staff member, you are always welcome to call us and consult about a CAPS Crisis Response to a critical incident. In some cases, we may conclude that a formal intervention by mental health professionals at CAPS is appropriate. Following are brief descriptions of the three most often used group interventions. We strongly recommend that attendance at any intervention be on a voluntary basis. A list of questions are included to help us, in coordination with you, make an informed decision as to which type of intervention would be most appropriate for your students.

InterventionTimingDuration of InterventionTarget GroupPotential Goal
Briefing:As needed; On-going and post-event; may be repeated as needed30 – 60 minutesHeterogeneous large or small groupsInformation, control rumors, reduces acute distress, increase cohesion, and facilitate resilience, screening and triage.
Defusing:On-going events and post-events (less than or equal to 12 hours)1 hour or more, depending on the size of the groupSmall homogeneous groupsStabilization, ventilation, reduces acute distress, screening, and information, increase cohesion, and facilitate resilience.
Debriefing:Post-event; ~1-10 days for acute incidents, ~3-4 weeks post-disaster recovery phase2 hours or more, depending on the size of the groupSmall homogeneous groups with equal trauma exposure (e.g., workgroups, emergency services, military)Increase cohesion, ventilation, information, and normalization, reduce acute distress, facilitate resilience, screening and triage. Follow-up essential.


The Critical Incident Response Team at UM CAPS consists of various members of CAPS who have been trained in Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) (Standards developed by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation.). CISM represents a comprehensive crisis intervention response to a critical campus incident. The vision of this team is: 1. To return the campus community to its pre-crisis milieu as soon as possible. 2. To identify, refer and/or assist any member of the campus community who may be at risk for depression, suicide, and other psychological problems due to the critical incident. 3. To help normalize the reactions of those individuals grieving or traumatized.

Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) is a structured group process, facilitated by a small team of trained individuals, where those who have been impacted by a critical incident are given an opportunity to talk about and react to the incident and learn about the recovery process. The goals of CISM are to reduce the impact of traumatic events, speed the recovery process for those affected, and prevent the occurrence of more serious emotional difficulties. CISM is based upon the work of Jeffrey Mitchell, Ph.D., and George Everly, Jr., Ph.D., and is in use worldwide. The nature and level of intervention depend on the kind of incident that occurs, the number of people affected, and the assessed needs of those individuals.

Within the first 24 hours, periods of strenuous physical exercise alternated with relaxation will alleviate some of the physical reactions. Keep busy and structure your time. Keep your schedule as normal as possible. Get plenty of rest. Eat well-balanced and healthy meals (even if you don't feel like it). Spend time with people who are supportive to you and talk to them. Give yourself permission to feel rotten and share your feelings with others. Don't make major life changes or decisions. Keep a journal; write your way through those sleepless nights. Consider your reactions to be normal. Avoid alcohol, drug or caffeine use. Do things that feel good to you and are good for you. Reach out - people do care.

  • Give yourself time to reflect on the event, how you are feeling, and how others might be feeling.
  • Become as well informed as possible about the facts and prepare your response.
  • Be aware that there is no “right” way to grieve or mourn. You can share your own response and normalize and encourage respect for variations of grieving.
  • Consider providing students with copies of "What You Can Expect" (a document you can request from CAPS).
  • Don’t fear asking your students how they are doing. Provide needed time to talk about the incident and the student’s feelings.
  • If the death was by suicide, acknowledge the difficulty around "making sense" of the death.
  • Show appreciation of student’s willingness to talk about their thoughts and feelings and remind them about resources on campus.
  • Return the class to the normal routine as soon as appropriate.
  • Offer a referral to CAPS to any student you may be concerned about.
  • Contact CAPS as needed for additional support and consultation.

Typically, the CRT responds to critical incidents when there is a clear end to the incident. Much of the intervention’s support is centered around education, coping skills, building community, and generally how to move forward. As the Pandemic continues to be a present reality without a known end, the way we grieve has changed and CAPS has tailored previously established interventions to match this new reality. For many of our students, the reported numbers carry names and personal relationships of close friends, family, or loved ones. Traditionally, mourning is accompanied by support that is gained from physically spending time with family members and friends. The severity of COVID-19 has resulted in stay at home orders and social distancing practices that have made traditional methods unobtainable. In addition to experiencing feelings that are known to be associated with grief and loss (e.g., denial; anger; sadness), a lack of closure may also be present. This year, CRT is committed to doing our best for students who may need support with their feelings around Pandemic related grief and loss. Find more information on Grief and COVID-19 HERE.


Much of the content on this page has been adapted from Grand Valley State and Penn State resources.

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Crisis services