Anna Billings, LMFT
             counseling  •  life coaching  •  soulwork 
                            couples, individuals, families, and organizations

Marin Office

610 D Street suite A

San Rafael, CA 94901

East Bay Office

125 W Richmond Ave

Point Richmond, CA



Critical Incident Stress Debriefing

What is a Critical Incident?

Critical incidents are traumatic events that are shocking, unexpected and perceived as harmful or threatening.  The incident is highly disturbing and usually evokes strong emotional reactions along with a disrupted sense of control, safety, and normality.  A few examples are:  robberies; assaults or threatened assaults; deaths; catastrophic accidents; fires; shootings; and natural disasters. 

What is a Critical Incident Stress Debriefing?

Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) is a method of on-site crisis counseling for people who have experienced a recent critical incident.   The purpose of a CISD is to lessen the negative impact of the incident by providing support, education, and coping strategies for those affected by the incident.   A debriefing is usually conducted within one to three days of the incident though later debriefings are also beneficial. 

What Happens During a Debriefing?

Though often conducted by psychotherapists trained in the CISD method, the debriefings are not therapy per se.  The focus is on education, understanding, containment, compassionate support and coping strategies rather than cathartic processing.  Debriefings can be conducted in group settings or on-site individual sessions or a combination of both. 

Participants are given an opportunity to briefly share their thoughts, experience and reactions to the incident and to hear the same from others.  No one is required to speak in the group if they would rather not.  The person leading the CISD provides understanding and support; education regarding common trauma and/or grief reactions; and suggestions for coping strategies and methods for healing. 

An important benefit of debriefings is what’s referred to as “normalization of symptoms” in which participants learn that their reactions are “normal responses to an abnormal event.”   As the duration and intensity of these reactions vary greatly among individuals, they are also encouraged to seek private counseling or therapy if symptoms are disturbing or persistent. 


Anna Billings, licensed psychotherapist, is trained in the Jeff Mitchell method with the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation.  She has provided Critical Incident Stress Debriefings and on-site grief counseling to organizations with successful results for over twelve years. 

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