Disaster Mental Health Case Studies: Lessons Learned from Counseling in Chaos, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Disaster Mental Health Case Studies

Lessons Learned from Counseling in Chaos, 1st Edition

Edited by James Halpern, Amy Nitza, Karla Vermeulen


202 pages

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pub: 2019-03-06
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Disaster Mental Health Case Studies is a riveting collection of case studies by master clinicians that reveal how disaster mental health interventions must be tailored to meet the needs of survivors. Each unique case study is structured to give the reader an introduction to the community affected pre-disaster; a glimpse into the thought processes of the disaster mental health responders pre- and post-disaster; and a reflective selection of lessons learned as a result of the experiences. The 17 case studies offer the reader:

  • Guidance on how to develop an empathic approach to disaster mental health response;
  • Exposure to a diverse sample of disaster contexts, including naturally-occurring disasters, human-caused disasters, and disasters which occurred in an international setting;
  • An understanding of the strategic approaches needed for disaster mental health service response, as well as an appreciation of the need for self-care when responding;
  • A grounded and accessible writing style, bookended by chapters from the editors which thematically link and analyze the case studies.

Offering a rare and compelling view into the challenges, tragedies, pain, frustrations, and grief at the heart of disaster mental health work, this must-have collection is tailored to appeal to students of mental health and counseling, psychology, and social work; and working mental health professionals who would like to learn directly from experienced responders.


"This much-needed volume will help all disaster workers and emergency responders, whether they are trainees or seasoned professionals, to better understand and navigate the real-world processes of disaster mental health response. It offers a unique description of the helping experiences, personal feelings, and reflections on lessons learned of individuals deployed in a comprehensive range of 17 natural and human-caused disasters, both domestic and international. This book is an invaluable training tool and deserves a place in the library of every emergency helper."Josef I. Ruzek, PhD, former director, National Center for PTSD Dissemination and Training Division, adjunct professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University

"The editors of this book are leading experts in the field of disaster response. They have assembled a series of compelling case studies on the human effects of various kinds of disasters. It is remarkable that they have included so many of the major disasters the world has seen in the past thirty years; with these case studies, readers can be reminded of what may have been forgotten and what can be learned from these experiences. Disaster Mental Health Case Studies is a great service to those who study disaster, as it takes a vast literature and in one place presents the recent history of disaster."—Richard G. Tedeschi, PhD, coauthor of Posttraumatic Growth: Theory, Research, and Applications

"The experience of reading Disaster Mental Health Case Studies is like peering into each contributor’s personal journal while also getting useful instruction on what works and what doesn’t in providing disaster mental health services. The diverse array of case studies shared in this well-organized, easy-to-follow compilation move the reader through a journey of understanding the impacts of disasters on individuals, families, and communities (and on ourselves) that’s on a human, accessible level, which will make disaster mental health providers all the more effective in supporting survivors and responders."—Christian Burgess, MSW, director, Disaster Distress Helpline for Vibrant Emotional Health

Table of Contents

1. Introduction Section I. Natural Disasters in the United States 2. Natural Disaster Section Introduction 3. 2014 Mudslides in Oso, WA 4. 2005 Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana 5. 2013 Wildfire in Yarnell, AZ 6. 2016 Floods in Mississippi 7. 2011 Tornado in Joplin, MO 8. 2012 Super Storm Sandy in New York City Section II. Human-Caused Disasters in the United States 9. Human-Caused Disaster Section Introduction 10. 1995 Bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City 11. 2001 World Trade Center Attack in New York City 12. 2012 Sandy Hook School Shooting in Newtown, CT 13. 2012 Shooting and Fire in Webster, NY 14. 2014 Mass Murder in Isla Vista, CA 15. 2016 Pulse Night Club Shooting in Orlando, FL Section III. International Disasters 16. International Disaster Section Introduction 17. 1998 Las Casitas Mudslides in Nicaragua 18. 2010 Earthquake in Haiti 19. 2013 Asylum Seeker Camp Riots on Nauru 20. 2013 Massacre at Rabaa Square in Egypt 21. 2014 Ebola Outbreak in Guinea 22. Conclusion

About the Editors

James Halpern, PhD, is Professor Emeritus and Founding Director of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health at the State University of New York at New Paltz. He is co-author of Disaster Mental Health Interventions: Core Principles and Practices and Disaster Mental Health: Theory and Practice.

Amy Nitza, PhD, is the Director of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health at the State University of New York at New Paltz.

Karla Vermeulen, PhD, is the Deputy Director of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health and an Associate Professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz. She is co-author of Disaster Mental Health Interventions: Core Principles and Practices.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Psychotherapy / Counseling
PSYCHOLOGY / Psychopathology / Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PSYCHOLOGY / Psychotherapy / General
PSYCHOLOGY / Mental Health