Communication in a Crisis

According to Judith Acosta and Judith Simon Prager, co-authors of the
book The Worst is Over, immediately following a serious emergency (car
accident, fall, injury), it’s likely the person who experienced it is in shock.
The autonomic nervous system — which reacts for us when something in
the outside world threatens us — has taken over. At that moment, the
person is in an altered state of consciousness, and your words to him are
just like a hypnotherapist’s suggestions.

book-cover-the-worst-is-over
The Worst is Over

They recommend the following in order to give the person the best
chances of healing well:

  • Call 911.
  • Center yourself (e.g. take a deep breath, say a prayer, speak a mantra).
  • Tell the person that the worst is over. Give him your name, and tell him
    you’re there to help. Ask his name and use it. Tell him the ambulance is
    on its way.
  • Ask him, “Will you do as I say?”
  • Be credible, confident, compassionate and concerned.
  • Give him therapeutic suggestions. For example, “Because the ambulance
    is on its way, you can begin to take a nice, easy breath.” If there’s
    bleeding, tell him, “You’re bleeding just enough to cleanse the wound; you can send clotting factor to the area now.” If there are multiple injuries, or if you can’t tell where he might be hurt, “You can now allow all your body
    functions to start working toward repair and healing.”
  • Remain calm and positive.


It’s equally important not to say anything negative to the person. Keep the focus of your words on positivity and healing. We all have a natural capacity to heal. Following this advice will help to trigger that capacity.

Frances O’Brien

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