February 20, 2024

Self-Care is Community Care: The Vital Role of Resilience in Critical Incident Stress Management Teams

By: Nicole E. Ferry, MPA

In the world of public safety, the men and women who dedicate their lives to protect and serve our communities often face unimaginable challenges. They stand on the front lines, confronting the darkest aspects of humanity while striving to maintain order and safety. The toll of such a demanding profession can be immense, making resilience a crucial aspect of their journey. In this article, we will explore the profound connection between self-care and community care, emphasizing the importance of resilience for those involved in Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM).

The Backbone of Our Communities

Law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics, and other first responders are the backbone of our communities. They rush towards danger when others flee, offering solace and support when chaos strikes. Their commitment to public safety often means encountering traumatic events, witnessing human suffering, and making split-second, life-altering decisions.

This continuous exposure to critical incidents can take a heavy toll on their mental and emotional well-being. As a society, we owe it to these brave individuals to not only recognize their sacrifices but also provide them with the tools and support they need to thrive in their roles.

The Heart of Resilience

At the heart of resilience lies the understanding that self-care is not a selfish act but rather a fundamental building block of community care. Resilience is not the absence of stress or trauma; it is the ability to bounce back from adversity and grow stronger through experience. For those involved in Critical Incident Stress Management, cultivating resilience is both a personal and professional imperative.

Resilience starts with self-awareness. It means acknowledging the emotional toll that the job can take and recognizing the importance of addressing it. In the world of CISM, where professionals are dedicated to helping others cope with trauma, self-care often takes a backseat. However, it is crucial to remember that one cannot pour from an empty cup.

The Ripple Effect of Self-Care

The ripple effect of self-care within the world of CISM is profound. When those who provide support and care for others prioritize their own well-being, they become better equipped to serve their communities effectively. Resilience is not only about weathering the storm but also about guiding others through it. By taking care of themselves, CISM professionals set a powerful example for their colleagues and the community at large.

When CISM Team members prioritize their mental, emotional, and physical health, they become more empathetic listeners, better communicators, and more effective counselors. This, in turn, enhances the quality of support they can provide to first responders and those affected by critical incidents. In essence, self-care becomes a cornerstone of community care.

Strategies for Building Resilience

Building resilience is a journey that requires dedication and a multifaceted approach. Here are some strategies that CISM Teams and first responders can incorporate into their lives:

  • Mindfulness and Meditation: These practices can help individuals manage stress, increase self-awareness, and improve their emotional well-being.
  • Physical Health: Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and sufficient sleep are essential for maintaining physical health, which is closely linked to mental well-being.
  • Peer Support: CISM has peer support as its bedrock. Teams need to connect with colleagues who understand the unique challenges of the profession. Sharing experiences and seeking support from peers can be immensely beneficial.
  • Professional Help: There should be no stigma attached to seeking professional help when needed. Therapists, counselors, and mental health professionals can provide valuable guidance and support.
  • Work-Life Balance: Strive to maintain a healthy work-life balance to prevent burnout. Taking time to engage in hobbies and spend quality time with loved ones is essential.
  • Training and Education: Continuously update your knowledge and skills in the field of CISM. Staying informed about the latest techniques and best practices can enhance your ability to provide effective support.

The Healing Power of Connection

In the world of Critical Incident Stress Management, where the pain and suffering of others often become the focal point, it can be easy to lose sight of one’s own needs. However, it is crucial to remember that self-care is not a solitary endeavor. It is a journey that is deeply interconnected with the well-being of the entire community.

When CISM Team members prioritize their own resilience and well-being, they not only become better equipped to provide support but also inspire those they serve to do the same. The healing power of connection extends beyond the immediate aftermath of a critical incident; it reverberates through the community, fostering a culture of care and compassion.


In the world of public safety, Critical Incident Stress Management professionals play a vital role in helping individuals and communities cope with trauma and adversity. However, their effectiveness in this role is closely tied to their own resilience and well-being. Self-care is not a selfish act but rather an essential component of community care.

By recognizing the profound connection between self-care and community care, those involved in CISM teams can build resilience that not only sustains them through the challenges they face but also empowers them to better serve their communities. Resilience is not about bouncing back; it’s about bouncing forward, stronger, and more prepared to make a positive impact on the world. In the world of CISM, self-care is not an option; it’s a responsibility—an essential act of love for oneself and one’s community.


Nicole E. Ferry, MPA, ICISF member, is a seasoned public safety leader with 26 years in law enforcement, specializing in areas like mental health, suicide prevention, and human trafficking. As a Special Agent in Charge (Ret.), she has been dedicated to promoting well-being and resilience within the field. Nicole is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and holds a Master’s in Public Administration with a focus on Homeland Security. She’s also a certified yoga instructor and RISE Evidenced Based Stress Reduction Facilitator. Based in Massachusetts, she enjoys outdoor activities and travels with her family.


February 18, 2024

Taking Our Own Self-Care Advice Is Hard

 The Poster Child

By: Fuzzy Lake, MDiv, CPC, CGW, CCISN, CRTS

I began my volunteer career in the early 1990’s as a volunteer chaplain at our local hospital in the hometown where I lived in South-Central Indiana. Shortly thereafter, I added a volunteer chaplain position to our local Indiana State Police Post to that resume, and then off and on, some of the other emergency services in our county. I ran a small business with 12 employees and pastored a church while I did that.

I went into ministry later in life, after a tumultuous childhood and 10-year stint trying to be a functioning alcoholic, I met a Higher Power, whom I choose to call God, and got sober in 1984. I struggled for several years until I met my sponsor, and he helped me learn all the things about being a husband, man, and father that I was never taught. With that coming together, I felt the call to deepen that relationship with my Higher Power and go into Ministry.

As is the case with most recovering and non-recovering alcoholics, we are all in. This ministry for me was no different. I was all in. After a while, I became the community “go to guy” to call when you had a crisis. Even before I knew what crisis intervention was.

I flew to Maryland in 1991 to take my first course in CISM. It was a group class. After the class, I landed in Indianapolis, Indiana, where I checked my messages on my phone. I found I had a message from the Indiana State Police Post Command, asking if I knew anything about CISM. There was a volunteer fire dept. asking for a CISD and wanted it done right away. I found someone to help and did a CISD the next day.

Later that year I took the Assisting Individuals in Crisis class. This is the one that would change my life as a pastor and chaplain forever. Before I would spend hours with couples and individuals doing pastoral counseling with them. Once I found out that most of them just needed crisis intervention, I began to do things differently.  By doing crisis intervention rather than either chaplain or pastoral care, I could see more people in less time.

Yes, that is what I said. More people in less time. And that is what I did. Remember I said ‘all-in”.

With the help of a friend, we started our county CISM team, which now covers 5 counties in Indiana and has 53 members, including a specially trained CISM Dog.

Fast forward 23 years. I was called to the local hospital for a fetal demise. We still called them stillborn’ s at the time. I spent a couple hours with family. Mom was in ICU because of complications in the delivery. She could not see the baby. Just the rest of the family. I walked with the nurse to the basement morgue and delivered the baby to the cooler. The next morning the same nurse called me and asked me if I would come back to the hospital and help her take the baby out of the cooler and let his mom see him in ICU. She was awake and alert. I had reservations; however, the baby was still there, and he looked the same as he did the night before. After wrapping him in a warm Afghan, we took him upstairs for his mom to see him. She held him for about an hour and then we took him back to the morgue.

When I walked out of the hospital that day, I was done with ministry. I had reached the bottom of the candle, and I was so gone that I could not even find my truck that was parked in the usual chaplain’s parking place. I had to have someone help me find it.

I got back to my office and called my wife. I knew I needed help. I also knew that I had PTSD from childhood. I looked up some people who did EMDR and found a therapist that did that in our area.

I met with him twice so that he could get information. And then he said something that I want to share with all my friends who are just like me. Those people who are “All-In”. He said, “Fuzzy, I believe you have some PTSD from childhood. But it is nothing compared to the trauma you have suffered in your ministry.”

Nothing compared to the trauma I had suffered in my ministry!! Wow. Those were hard words to hear. I keep great records. He asked me if I could list all the celebrations of life’s that I had done for children and people who had completed suicide. There were 18 suicides and 49 children under the age of 18. That did not count for he 100’s of others that I did in the then 23 years of ministry.

That’s when I changed the way I did things. To keep my sobriety and my sanity, I had to not only learn how to say “No”, but I also had to learn how to say “Hell No”. For those people who would not take no for an answer.

Then I also learned how to do “me” time. Even though I knew what to do, I rarely practiced it. I taught it and did not do it. While I still sometimes am tempted to be all things to all people, I know that I cannot, and I will not.

All of this to say I know there are lots of people reading this that have been there or are there now. I hope you take this as a wake-up call. Don’t get to the place I was at. It was a very dark place. If ever there was a time when I was close to drinking again, it was there.

Remember, rarely, if ever, can you un-see, un-hear, or un-smell a trauma. And when you hear someone else’s trauma, you take that on also.

February 15, 2024


February 15, 2024

Media Contact:

Jenna Johnson | 843-371-8216 | [email protected]

CSU’s Dewey Center for Chaplaincy partners with ICISF

Group photo: (L-R) Dr. Michael Wilder, CSU provost and vice president for academic affairs; Dr. David Baggs, CSU vice president for development; Keith Faulkner, CSU president; Luke Blackmon, vice president for business affairs; Rev. Rob Dewey; Dr. Ron Harvell, director of the Dewey Center for Chaplaincy; Dr. Ben Phillips, dean of the College of Christian Studies; Thomas Nicholson, leader of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at CSU; Dr. Michael Bryant, vice president for strategic planning, faith integration, and Christian leadership; and Sundi Romano, office manager for the Dewey Center.

CHARLESTON, SC – The Dewey Center for Chaplaincy at Charleston Southern University recently entered into a strategic partnership with the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, Inc., of Ellicott City, Maryland.

Dr. Ron Harvell, director of the Dewey Center, said, “Together, we will provide accessible training for those serving, or preparing to serve, in environments where crisis intervention skills are deeply needed, to promote one another’s missions, and disseminate information.”

The Dewey Center for Chaplaincy’s mission is to increase chaplaincy ministry skills using education and training to provide the world with more confident, courageous, and compassionate servant leaders.  Through CSU’s College of Christian Studies, CSU provides the only accredited Bachelor of Arts degree in chaplaincy ministry in the United States. Students may major or minor in chaplaincy ministry or take classes as electives. These courses include Introduction to Crisis Ministry, Foundations in Chaplaincy Ministry, Christian Counseling, and Internships.

The Center’s training programs have awarded training certificates to over 800 students in the past four years.  Current training programs include Mental Health First Aid, Suicide Prevention, Human Flourishing, Pastoral Care Intervention, and PTSD training for Global Leaders.

The Center was launched in 2020 after Rev. Rob Dewey and his wife, Kathy, committed $2 million to establish the Center through annual gifts and listing CSU as a beneficiary of their estate. Dewey said this strategic partnership is monumental, considering the fact that ICISF trains upwards of 40,000 first responders, nurses, and pastors each year. He added, “I came in contact with the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, Inc. in 1996 as a consumer. I went to one of their in-person conferences and said, ‘Man, this is what I have been trying to do on the streets of Charleston, North Charleston, Goose Creek, but I didn’t have a formula to go with it.’”

Richard Barton, ICISF Chief Executive Officer, said, “Our strategic partnership with the Dewey Center for Chaplaincy is a wonderful addition. I believe that we will be able to carry out some very meaningful work to support each other. We look forward to working with their organization in the future.”  In addition to cross promotional opportunities, the two organizations will explore curriculum and course content development as well as looking into the ICISF-approved Instructor Candidate Program.

The first event in collaboration with the Dewey Center and ICISF partnership will be the Spiritual Care in Crises Conference at Charleston Southern University April 2-6.  Some of the lead trainers include:

  • George Everly: ICISF; Johns Hopkins – disaster mental health, resilience, crisis intervention, terrorism, psychological first aid
  • Victor Welzant: ICISF; Crisis Intervention, Critical Incident Stress Management, Suicide, Disaster Behavioral Health and the impact and treatment of trauma
  • Tyler Vanderweele: Harvard; integrating empirical social sciences and humanities on topics central to human flourishing such as purpose, virtue, marriage and family, religion, work, etc.
  • Rev Rob Dewey: Director of Low Country Chaplaincy, Co-author of Pastoral Care Intervention courses; Critical Incidents in Places of Worship- Providing Effective Crisis Support

Courses offered:

  • Assisting Individuals in Crisis and Group Crisis Intervention
  • Emotional and Spiritual Care in Disasters
  • Global PTSD Training for Ministry Leaders
  • Human Spirit and Faith Tactics in CISM
  • Pastoral Crisis Intervention
  • Pastoral Crisis Intervention Approved Instructor Candidate Program
  • Spiritual and Psychological First Aid

To register for this upcoming conference, click here.

The ICISF offers these and a variety of education and training programs, both in person and virtually. Primary courses for someone new to Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) are their Core Courses (Assisting Individuals in Crisis & Group Crisis Intervention) which provide the foundation for crisis intervention. From there, individuals can participate in Advanced Core Courses to further their crisis intervention skills; profession specific courses, such as CISM in the College and University Setting, Grief Following Trauma and Spiritual and Psychological First Aid; CISM Refreshers, which offer practice scenarios; and Learning with Leaders, which are short presentations where subject matter experts share their expertise.

In addition to providing training opportunities, ICISF also provides CISM certification, CISM support and many more resources, such as the Crisis Journal, Crisis Resource Library, CISM Bookstore, CISM Live Series, CISM News (monthly blog), and the ICISF Podcast Series. Learn more about ICISF’s strategic partnerships, offerings, and resources at

Photo: Luke Blackmon, CSU vice president for business affairs, the Rev. Rob Dewey, and Dr. Ron Harvell sign the agreement with ICISF.


About Charleston Southern University:  Founded in 1964 in the heart of the Charleston metro area, Charleston Southern University is a private, Christian liberal arts university. With an enrollment of more than 3,500 students, CSU offers more than 80 academically rigorous and faith-integrated undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs. Charleston Southern has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report nationally for Best Online Bachelor’s Programs and – Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans. Students can learn online or in a traditional classroom setting, all while discovering their pathway to purpose.

About ICISF:  The mission of the ICISF is to be the leader in providing education, training, consultation, and support services in comprehensive crisis intervention and disaster behavioral health services to emergency responders, and other professions, organizations and communities worldwide.

December 15, 2023

How To Help Troubled Service Members & Veterans Get Through The Holidays

By: Tom Temin

Tis the season to be jolly. But military service members and veterans often experience a spike in depression or post traumatic stress disorder — even suicide — this time of year.

The Immune System-Stress Connection: Use It To Thrive

By: Cynthia Ackrill, MD, PCC, FAIS 

Like our immune system, our stress reaction system is also there to protect us from the dangers of the world. 24/7 the brain stays on high alert, scoping out any possible threats from escaped tigers to cars cutting us off to sneers on our partner’s face. 

“Take a moment to reflect and look back – but only a moment because new possibilities are just over the horizon. With the end of a year, it’s time to think of the new possibilities in the future.”

Start the new year with CISM Training!  The new year is filled with a variety of core, advanced and specialty courses to aid you in gaining valuable knowledge in crisis intervention.

November 16, 2023

Choosing Hope & Gratitude

By: Pete Volkmann, MSW

Gratitude encompasses your mind-body-spirit (MBS) in wellness. Gratitude is the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

Giving Thanks-Growing Hope

By: Chaplain Ron Harvell, USAF BG (ret), D.Min.

Hope is the strategy.  We must build people’s lives on a solid foundation.  They need meaning, purpose, worth, value, and community.

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.” – William Arthur Ward.

Helping the Helpers Through Mindful Self-Care

Mindfulness as a humanizing process in self-care for helping professionals.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought about significant changes in our daily lives, impacting how we work, learn, and engage with others. As a result, self-care has become a vital subject of conversation among professionals, particularly those who are grappling with challenges such as exhaustion, burnout, and even indirect trauma. Read More

How to Be More Thankful

Thankfulness—which might also be referred to as gratitude or appreciation—is a positive, other-focused emotion (Emmons & McCullough, 2004). It generally involves positive feelings about another person’s actions, but it might just be for the other person’s existence—e.g., I’m just thankful to have you! Read More

Why Not Give Up? The Correlation Between Despair and Hope

When we are in the mire, when we are in the pit of doom and despair and self-loathing, it is difficult to look up and see the light. Find trusted friends, colleagues, and professionals who can help be your guide and lead you to the light. Together, with the right guide, you can find reasons to keep winning and never give up hope. Read More

Duty, Honor, HopeStrategies for Understanding & Unpacking First Responder Grief By: Beth L. Hewett, PhD, CT, CCISM, CEOLS

Emergency Planning for First Responders & Their Families

Traumatic Critical Incident Stress Info. Sheet for Spouses, Families, & Significant Others

Returning Veterans: No One Way to HelpIn this 15th World Congress Breakout Session, Jon Kayne, Professor of Clinical Counseling and Psychology, Bellevue University, Bellevue, NE discusses: Returning veterans, whether recently returned or returned 70 years ago, often have difficulty readjusting to civilian life, and some never do readjust. The issues range from simply feeling that they do not fit in with their families and communities to others who suffer from severe traumatic stress symptoms. Watch Now

Hope (ICISF Quick Tips Podcast Episode)

Giving Thanks & GratitudeJoin us as we speak with guest speaker Rev. Rob Dewey, where we will discuss Giving Thanks & Gratitude. 

November 16, 2023

Choosing Hope and Gratitude

By: Pete Volkmann, MSW

As the year 2023 (can you believe…2023!!!) ends, I have found the end of every year and beginning of the new year creates a time of reflection. Maybe that is why there are so many different holidays for many different cultures around the world.  This is a major upcoming holiday season for so many of us worldwide. Holidays are designed as celebrations with time for reflection and connection. Many of us have taken time off from responsibilities, which is a choice in the way we celebrate our holidays. We have a choice on how we share that day. We have a choice of who we share our celebration with and where we celebrate this time of the year. We have a choice to limit our distractions and reflect upon ourselves and our circumstances from the previous year. We have a choice in how we process our thoughts and feelings for the new year. No wonder the end of the year holidays seems, at times, to be too stressful. It is a time of choices of how we filter our memories and interpret the meaning of those memories. This holiday season of reflection may be wonderful for some and yet this time of reflection may be painful for others. And others may experience a little of both. I must confess certain years in my life. I remember I just wanted the holiday season to end because of all the “distractions” and “responsibilities” the holiday season created. It was a time I chose not to reflect and think and feel about my life. I also chose not to be thankful in any way at all. I wanted nothing from the holiday season. I am sure I am not the only person that has had such holiday experiences.

Through all the years in CISM, I have learned through so many people the importance of the end of the year and the beginning of the year. The new year offers a chance for reset or a course correction in life. This is the time to think about who you are and examine your purpose. My own critical incidents have changed my life, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. I do attest my life has changed. The choices I have made in dealing with the good in life and the bad in life have made all the difference in my personal identity and my life destiny. It was my ICISF experiences that taught me two important back pocket skills in life. Gratitude and hope. You cannot have one without the other. Gratitude is a recovery strength that sparks hope to provide us with direction when we struggle in life. You cannot have hope without having some form of gratitude in your life. You cannot have gratitude without acknowledging some form of hope.

Gratitude encompasses your mind-body-spirit (MBS) in wellness. Gratitude is the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Gratitude is both giving and taking of appreciation and kindness. Gratitude is utilized in the present moment in our lives yet acknowledges our past and our future in our lives. Gratitude is reality based and places our self-identity and our life purpose in perspective. Gratitude can be the result of experiences with others (man-made), or it can be spiritual in nature.  Man-made gratitude is a result of our human experiences and/or our human relationships with each other.   This man-made gratitude can also come from self-appreciation of who we are.  The other type of gratitude to recognize may be “spiritual.”  This spiritual sense of gratitude is something our human experiences cannot prove through just our senses. Spirituality is a sense of something cosmic or divine in nature in which we have a relationship. Let us not forget the “body” aspect of wellness that we sometimes do not recognize. “Body” wellness is the gratitude and self-kindness of what our bodies offer to us in our lives. Our bodies provide us with information through our senses that gives us proper interpretations of who we are and the world around us.

Gratitude is being thankful for what we have in our lives and what we do not have in our lives. Past struggles that have been overcome is a powerful appreciation anchor that promotes strength and hope for our present moment and future. Sometimes others’ hardship experiences provide personal gratitude for not being in such a personal life situation.

Gratitude always expands into some kind of “thankful kindness” experience that can be spiritual and/or man-made. It encompasses and results in kindness, compassion, understanding, and even forgiveness. Gratitude is a simple yet powerful conscious action that activates recovery in anything in life. No matter how bad your life is and how hard the struggle is, thankful appreciation sets a focus of kindness that can jump start your recovery. The present moment of gratitude may not change the circumstance in your life at that moment, but it can change what you focus on within your life and change your self-identity of who you are. Gratitude is a simple action that is a precursor to creating hope. Gratitude is not hope but it is the spark that can create hope.

Hope is a concept that is so important in CISM. Whether it is with an individual or with a group, hope is a major component in beginning the process of healing after a critical incident. Hope can be created through others (man-made) or spiritually created. What we do in CISM generates man-made hope through our training and our individual character. We also have the skills to expand spiritual hope beyond what our senses can detect. Spiritual hope may come from connecting with other humans or from a divine influence.

What makes hope…hope? There are six dimensions of hope that align with the five areas of distress in CISM. Check out the ICISF Podcast “Quick Tip Series” on the dimensions of hope.

Let us start with a definition. Robert Mills in 1979 provided different perspectives of a definition of hope.

  • Hope is an attitude or state of being. Hope is the intuitive read of our conscious being that connects our whole selves, both conscious and unconscious, with the fullness of transcendent relationship that unites past and future as well as oneself with another.
  • Hope implies participation in that which is hoped for. It is neither expansion nor reduction of self. It is transcendence of self. It is the “state of being” in which one exists in a true relationship with others.
  • Hope, like love, is giving of self beyond oneself. Hope is peace beyond magical thinking or stoic acceptance that provides a glimpse of light. Hope opens the possibility of achieving a sacred sense of comfort, whether confronted by joy or overwhelmed by sorrow.

These definitions can run deep which makes grasping the understanding of hope challenging.

A colleague of mine, Brian Flynn, from Binghamton, N.Y. described hope beautifully as,

Hope is who we want to be and how we interact with the world in which we want to live.”

Defining hope with universal concepts and a universal definition is difficult because it is a personal experience.

Hope is a complex concept that has different dimensions that cannot be seen through one lens. I have experienced two types of hope…

  • Man-made hope (focuses on a valued outcome, goodness, or state of being. It preserves and restores the meaning of life. It clarifies, prioritizes, and affirms what a hoped person perceives as most important in life).
  • Spiritual hope (generalized hope like a protective umbrella that is a pinhole of a positive glow that extends beyond time and matter).

Spirituality is a belief of something greater than self, something more in being human than just sensory experience, something greater that we are part of that is cosmic or divine in nature. It shifts from finding a certain way to live towards accepting and living in the experience.

I have compared the six dimensions of hope from the work of Karen Dufault and Benita Martocchio with the comparison of the five areas of distress in CISM training.

The five areas of distress include: Cognitive, Affective, Behavioral, Physical, Spiritual. Compare that with the six dimensions of hope: Cognitive, Affective, Behavioral, Affiliative, Temporal, and Contextual.

Comparing the five areas of distress (CISM) with six dimensions of hope.

    6 Dimensions of Hope                     5 Areas of Distress (CISM)

  • Cognitive                                               Cognitive
  • Affective                                                Affective
  • Behavioral                                             Behavioral
  • Affiliative                                               Physical
  • Temporal                                               Spiritual
  • Contextual

Cognitive dimensions: Hope is reality based and not a wish. The cognitive dimensions make it reality based through a rational examination of personal resources and limitations at that present moment. It is not magical thinking. This dimension is “cerebrally based” through some kind analytical thinking.

Affective dimensions: Hope creates sensations and emotions that result in a confident feeling of an outcome with feelings of uncertainty with the necessary waiting for the outcome. Hope brings confident feelings for the future yet needs to have that uncertainty in waiting to ascertain if it will work. Hope is full of different feelings at the same time as a human being that are necessary in all hope concepts.

Behavioral dimensions: There are four realms of behavioral actions to energize feelings and attitudes to directly affect hope that include:

  • Psychologic realms are those mental activities like organizing ideas, planning strategies, making decisions, and thinking of resolutions to create hope.
  • Physical realms are personal acts we take such as proper eating habits, exercise, or even resting.
  • Social realms are actions involving reaching out to others creating caring attachments.
  • Religious realms contribute to religious functions such as charities, reading sacred scriptures, praying, and meditation.

Affiliative dimensions: are all about a sense of belonging beyond self. It is how we identify relationships with other people, other living things, and a higher power. There is an expression of hope objects that include a relationship with or concern for others. It could be a reliance on others through their skill and/or influence to create your hope.

Temporal dimensions focus on experiencing time in the past, present, and future into generating the hoping process. Past experiences may have helped you previously but can now be utilized again for your need to create new hope presently. Creating hope in the “now moment” using the other dimensions creates your future hope.

Contextual dimensions are hope components brought to the forefront of conscious awareness and experience within the context of life (life situations that surround and influence hope). This usually comes with loss resulting in hopelessness through stress and crisis. Hopelessness is NOT the absence of hope. Hopelessness is not the opposite of hope. Each concept activates a need for an outcome.

As we provide hope for others in our CISM skills, we are really utilizing at least one of the dimensions of hope. Tapping into these dimensions is what creates hope. Over the decades of CISM experiences and being part of ICISF, I have gratitude I would like to share publicly.

I am personally grateful for:

Dr. Jeff Mitchell, who created the CISD model that has changed my life for the better. You gave me the skills I did not know I had to have influence on those in their worst moments.

Dr. George Everly, who co-founded ICISF with Dr. Mitchell and expanded ICISF to become the largest crisis intervention organization in the world. You gave me the confidence to challenge the old world first responder system and bring CISM into an accepted standard of care with your wisdom you provided.

The ICISF staff who have always placed the CISM mission before their needs. I have been and will be inspired by your faithfulness through the years in all you do every day for ICISF. I genuinely love each and every one of you.

The ICISF faculty, who have dedicated the passing of their knowledge and personal experiences through course creations and provided support to every CISM student.  It was not just your efforts in front of the class, but the side conversations to students providing compassion and confidence one soul at a time.

To the approved instructors who understood the trust Jeff and George gave us to be able to teach their CISM content. You all understood the responsibility to train properly and be ICISF ambassadors throughout the years. Every instructor has made a difference in keeping to our mission.

To every person who I trained in CISM, I am honored to be part of your CISM development and thankful for your time and efforts in the trenches in dealing with critical incidents worldwide.

To every person and every group who allowed me to become part of their recovery story through CISM. You have given me more than I could ever give to you…the power of human spirit and strength of hope in recovery.

To those individuals who have been there for me to keep me sober and sane throughout my many critical experiences in my life. You have saved my life again and again with no expectation for me to return the favor.  Your unconditional love for me and consistent life skills you provided to me have been passed to others by me. That is the least I can do in appreciation. You know who you are. Thank you.

Through the gratitude I always realize how blessed I am in my life with ICISF…through all the good and all the bad. May I learn your personal ICISF gratitude when I see you in the future. Until then, may your gratitude in 2024 be abundant and your hopes for the new year be attained.

Never discount what hope can do when hope is all that counts. – Peter Volkmann

November 16, 2023

Giving Thanks – Growing Hope

By: Chaplain Ron Harvell, USAF BG (ret), D.Min.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.  Specifically, thank you to the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF) for asking me to write a blog about giving thanks and growing hope.  I pray this blog gives you ideas and tools for caring-for-the-caregiver and caring for others.  I want you to take away 3 distinct things:

  1. Become a More Thankful Person
  2. Add Human Flourishing Research to Your Skills Toolkit
  3. Build an Infrastructure to Produce Hope and Resiliency


  1. Become a More Thankful Person – The Value of Gratitude and Thankfulness

I worked for a Four-Star General named Phillip Breedlove who would become the Supreme Allied Commander for Europe and NATO.  He was famous for noticing people, hearing their stories, and treating them with great respect.  General Breedlove grew up in a humble family of hard-working people.  The qualities of kindness, gratefulness, and thankfulness would be evidenced in his positive treatment of others.  I observed these qualities at a video shoot for a United Services Organizations (USO) advertisement. He said thank you to even the smallest kindness.   He ensured everyone was greeted and acknowledged.  When he left the USO to continue his schedule, several of the USO team said, “Did you see that?  He treated all of us as if we were the most important person here.” The General’s staff replied, “He is always that way.”

In your life how can you become more intentional in your gratitude and thankfulness?

I was asked by some of Charleston Southern University’s counseling students this question: “What is the goal of counseling?”  I thought about the skills and answers that counselors need to help people in crisis.  My answer to the students was however different.  I said, “Being thankful is the greatest milestone of recovery.”

  1. Add Human Flourishing Research to your Skills Toolkit

I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Tyler VanderWeele, of the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, several years ago when the Air Force was learning about the value of faith practiced with others.  He is the world’s premier public health research professor.  Since that time his team has launched a large research model entitled “12 Points of Human Flourishing.”  I encourage you to look into his research and skills training for expanding your scale of knowledge.

Harvard Activities for Flourishing:  An Evidence-Based Guide

Tyler VanderWeele’s research shows that gratitude has significant positive personal outcomes, resulting in:

  • increased personal well-being
  • increased personal behaviors
  • better feelings about life
  • fewer physical symptom complaints
  • better sleep
  • higher levels of happiness
  • lower levels of depressive symptoms.[1]

When you think of Thanksgiving this year, think about these values of gratitude and thankfulness.

In VanderWeele’s work on Human Flourishing, these other positive behaviors resulted in positive outcomes:

  • forgiveness
  • character
  • kindness
  • imagining
  • connectedness
  • volunteering
  • marriage
  • work
  • worship

Human Flourishing research on weekly religious participation:

  • 30-50% less likely to die over the next 20 years
  • 50% less likely to divorce
  • 5 times less likely to commit suicide
  1. Build an Infrastructure to Produce Hope and Resiliency

When I was stationed in Germany, 2010-2013, I had the honor of being on the staff of 4-Star General Mark Welsh and subsequently General Phillip Breedlove.  They were the Commanders of Air Forces in Europe and Africa.  General Mark Welsh was very concerned about the importance of Airmen and their families having the personal qualities that build character, hope, and faith.

In order to answer his concerns, a multidisciplined resiliency committee worked together to design a program called “Core Groups.” Based on the Air Forces Core Values, this program provided an opportunity for Airmen to increase their resiliency by participating in a simple tool to make them better Airmen.  They would gather monthly in groups of 10 or less and follow a prescribed lesson.  The lesson had a discussion on a particular theme.  Every Airman had to speak in the group.  They had the opportunity to reflect on their own lives, share their ideas, and build their character and sense of community.

In the first month, 45,000 Airmen met in 5,000 groups across Europe and some in Africa.  We designed 20 months’ worth of Core Groups.  The groups made the Airmen more professional, part of a greater community, and able to have inputs that resulted in an increase in purpose, belonging, and value.

The abbreviation “O.P.R.” stands for Office of Personal Responsibility.  The Air Force chaplains were the O.P.R. of Hope.  It was our job to help build hope in individuals.  Where there is hope, there are not suicides. In our programing we used community, faith, purpose, value, and meaning to build hope.

We began a campaign to marry up with Harvard and Duke’s research on the value of faith and community.  People can Belong, Believe, and Become. When a person Belongs with others in community, it increases their social fitness.  When a person Believes with some type of faith, they increase their spiritual fitness.  When combined, they Become a person with greater hope and resiliency.

Hope is the strategy.  We must build people’s lives on a solid foundation.  They need meaning, purpose, worth, value, and community.  From these come God’s gift of Hope.  It is Hope that gets us through each day.

Look to discover how you can help build hope!

Fill your tool chest with Harvard’s Flourishing Tools

Enjoy a great big grateful and thankful Thanksgiving!


[1] VanderWeele, Tyler., Harvard University, United States; ISSN 2587-0130, Journal of Positive Psychology & Wellbeing 2020, Vol. 4, No. 1, 79 –91

Ibid.  “On the Promotion of Human Flourishing.” Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, Program on Integrated Knowledge and Human Flourishing, Institute for Quantitative Social Science, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, 02138.  PNAS, 1 August 2017, Vol. 114, no. 31;

[1] VanderWeele, Tyler., Harvard University, United States; ISSN 2587-0130, Journal of Positive Psychology & Wellbeing  2020, Vol. 4, No. 1, 79 –91

October 2, 2023

Destigmatizing the Conversation: The Crucial Role of Critical Incident Stress Management for First Responders

By: John Hunt, MA, CHEC, CCISM, CAAIS, Chief Operations Officer, Crisis Response Canines


October marks the National Depression and Mental Health Awareness and Screening Month.  While depression can affect anyone, it has a particularly profound impact on First Responders. Now more than ever, we have a call to action to raise awareness, and address the mental health needs of our heroic first responders. Critical Incident Stress Management plays a crucial role in supporting their mental health and general wellbeing.

These Habits Can Cut The Risk Of Depression In Half, A New Study Finds

Article By: NPR

If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, here’s a strategy that may help boost your mental health: Spend the next week observing your daily habits. You can jot them down in a journal to keep track. Read More

Funding EMS Behavioral Health Programs

Article By: EMS1

These numbers emphasize the urgent need for increased funding and resources to expand behavioral health programs, ensuring EMS professionals can thrive in all aspects of their lives. Read More

What is Depression?

Article By: SAMHSA

Depression is a disorder of the brain. It is a serious mental illness that is more than just a feeling of being “down in the dumps” or “blue” for a few days.

For more than 20 million people in the United States who have depression, the feelings persist and can interfere with everyday life. Read More

For more information about SAMHSA, visit SAMHSA.Gov.

Weekly Wellness Minute: 3 Ways Pets Can Boost Your Mental Health Watch Here


Putting First Responders First – 100 Club of Arizona Be sure to listen to this podcast and more Here

SeaTac, WA First Responder Mental Health and Wellness Conference

Thu Nov 2nd 2023, 8:00 am – Fri Nov 3rd 2023, 4:00 pm PDT

Presented by 1st Responder Conferences in Partnership with First H.E.L.P. Learn More