Skills for Psychological Recovery (SPR)

Skills for Psychological Recovery (SPR) is an evidence-informed modular approach to help children, adolescents, adults, and families in the weeks and months after disasters and terrorism, after the period where Psychological First Aid is utilized.

Skills for Psychological Recovery is designed to reduce any ongoing distress caused by traumatic events and to foster short- and long-term adaptive functioning and coping. Principles and techniques of Skills for Psychological Recovery meet four basic standards.  They are: (1) consistent with research evidence on risk and resilience following trauma; (2) applicable and practical in field settings; (3) appropriate for developmental levels across the lifespan; and (4) culturally informed and delivered in a flexible manner.  Skills for Psychological Recovery does not assume that all survivors will develop severe mental health problems or long-term difficulties in recovery. Instead, it is based on an understanding that disaster survivors and others affected by such events will experience a broad range of reactions (for example, physical, psychological, behavioral, spiritual). Some of these reactions will cause enough distress to interfere with adaptive coping, and recovery may be helped by support from compassionate and caring counselors.

Skills for Psychological Recovery focuses on a few core empirically-derived skill sets that have been shown to help with a variety of post-trauma issues.  Research suggests that a skills-building approach is more effective than supportive counseling.  SPR is a skills-training model designed to accelerate recovery and increase self-efficacy, rather than a mental health model.

The SPR approach addresses the issue that many people will only being able to attend one or two contacts.  Expert Consensus suggests that there be at least 3-5 contacts that focus on skills-building to reliably change behavior.  However, SPR is set up to provide stand-alone contacts if 3-5 contacts aren’t practical.  Counselors should attempt to set an expectancy for what is most helpful (more than one contact).

SPR is not meant to be formal mental health treatment – it is intermediate, secondary prevention.  For many people it will be enough.  However, if SPR doesn’t help to alleviate distress as effectively as is needed, it is appropriate to refer to more intensive mental health intervention. SPR is meant to teach basic skills, but not to solve all problems.  The counselor may only be able to address one or two issues, then refer the survivor on.  Additionally, if serious issues are revealed in initial assessment, immediate referral is encouraged.

SPR is based on gathering information on client needs, and defining goals and priorities in a collaborative process – it should address the top needs identified by the client as well as what counselor perceives to be problems, considered in light of what is feasible in the time allotted.

Who is Skills for Psychological Recovery For?

Skills for Psychological Recovery intervention strategies are intended for use with children, adolescents, parents/caretakers, families, and adults exposed to disaster or terrorism. Skills for Psychological Recovery can also be provided to first responders and other disaster relief workers.

Who Delivers Skills for Psychological Recovery?

Skills for Psychological Recovery is designed for delivery by mental health and other disaster response workers who provide ongoing support and assistance to affected children, families, and adults as part of an organized disaster response effort. These providers may be imbedded in a variety of services, including FEMA-funded crisis counseling programs, community mental health settings, primary and emergency health care, school crisis response teams, faith-based organizations, Community recovery programs, Medical Reserve Corps, the Citizens Corps, and other disaster–related organizations.

Sixty New Jersey Counselors from schools and communities were trained in February and are beginning to offer SPR counseling services to youth and adults in the most impacted counties throughout the state.

When Should Skills for Psychological Recovery Be Used?

Skills for Psychological Recovery is designed to be implementedin the weeks, months, and years following disasters and terrorism,generally after psychological first aid (PFA) and/or supportive counseling have been attempted and more intensive support is indicated.

Where Should Skills for Psychological Recovery Be Used?

Skills for Psychological Recovery is designed for delivery in diverse settings. Mental health and other disaster response workers may be called upon to provide Skills for Psychological Recovery in general population shelters, special needs shelters, outreach settings such as schools, survivor support gatherings, memorial services, and community events, staging areas or respite centers for first responders or other relief workers, crisis hotlines or phone banks, disaster assistance service centers, family assistance centers, homes, businesses, and other community settings. However, for best results, the services should be provided in a private, quiet place that allows for at least 45 minutes of uninterrupted time together.