For three years, Temple’s Trauma Response Team has worked to counsel people at risk of developing post traumatic stress disorder from situations where Temple students, faculty or surrounding community members have experienced shocking occurrences.
The Trauma Response Team has responded to situations such as the stabbing last year in front of White Hall and the shooting three weeks ago at the same location.
Using Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM), the team is deployed to help victims and bystanders cope with the onslaught of emotion and information that may be overloading their minds.
Each member of the team continually trains in cognitive flexibility, which is the ability to adjust to each situation and be prepared to handle what comes along.
This is crucial to ensure that a team member does not hesitate due to a sensory overload when dealing with a survivor.
Upon deployment, team members may conduct one-on-one counseling if there are a few people seeking help. A moderate sized group may receive a group debriefing that occurs within 72 hours after the incident, and lasts for two to four hours.
In situations where there are 100 or more people involved, the teams use demobilization. In demobilization, survivors are asked how they feel and are treated accordingly for a few minutes and then are sent to get something to eat.
By feeding the survivors, the body is treated as well as the mind and a sense of normality is introduced.
Later, a more intensive debriefing may occur. The concept of demobilization maintains that a short intervention followed by a more thorough counseling session is effective in a time when there are too many people to help otherwise.
Temple was one of the first universities in the nation to have a Trauma Response Team.
“Temple gets a lot of negative press,” said Denise Walton, one of the three Trauma Response Team leaders. “This is a good thing we do for students.”
Recently, Temple University Hospital trained its own Trauma Response Team.
“It’s not all about violence such as the shooting that occurred a couple weeks ago,” said Dean of Students James Fitzsimmons. “There may be a student who died of natural causes. The majority of what the Trauma Response Team deals with is not of a criminal nature.”
The Team is made up of three team leaders; one is on call per week. The main staff of the Tuttleman Counseling Center is also trained to be on the team.
There are also members of the housing staff, police officers, nurses, at least one faculty member, a student advisor and honors students.
Trauma Response Teams are part of a national organization founded by Jeff Mitchell in Ellicott City, Md. The parent organization, the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, founded in 1993, trains more than 350 Trauma Response Teams in the United States and is a peer group based organization.
There is currently one other Trauma Response Team in the Philadelphia metro area at the Philadelphia School of Science and Technology.