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News & Information

ICISF Collaborates With the United Nations
Jeffrey T. Mitchell, PhD, CTS, ICISF President Emeritus

In March, 2006, the United Nations selected the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation as a collaborative partner in the development of a world wide Critical Incident Stress Management program for UN personnel.  The UN invited Dr. Jeffrey T. Mitchell, President Emeritus of ICISF, to join a special team to develop a “best practices” approach to supporting its personnel after traumatic events. 

ICISF is one member of the development team that includes representative from several international organizations including the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, The French Institute for Research and Education in Stress and Trauma, the World Health Organization, the French National Committee on Medico-Psychological Emergencies, the UN Office of Human Resource Management and the UN Department of Safety and Security Critical Incident Stress Management Unit.

The team met in Paris in April of 2006.  Committees were formed and tasks were assigned.  Intense work continued through the summer and fall of 2006 and the team met again at UN Headquarters in New York in December.  The final plans for a 90 hour training course for UN personnel were established and the team was directed to put the finishing touches on the course materials.

A field test of the ninety hour course occurred in Glen Cove , New York from March 10 to March 22, 2007.  The course drew enthusiastic acceptance and support from the UN personnel in attendance.  Further refinements are underway and the course will be presented again in Paris , France in early June.

ICISF holds a seat on the United Nations Department of Safety and Security Consultative Working Group on Stress.  The Consultative Working Group on Stress is a standing advisory group under the direction of the Secretariat branch of the United Nations.


March 2007, New York - In an effort to enhance the quality of psychosocial support services provided to UN staff worldwide, the UNDSS Critical Incident Stress Management Unit (CISMU) has instituted an intensive counselor training and certification program. The training represents a key component of the Unit's strategic framework, which aims to provide harmonized, readily accessible, quality psychosocial services to UN staff utilizing professional resources at the country level.

The results of the pilot program, initiated during the past two years, illustrate the efficacy of this model. Critical Incident Stress Intervention Cells (CISICs), comprised of locally-based counselors and peer helpers, were established in Indonesia , Pakistan , and India . Assessment results after one year revealed that the program was highly successful. Managers at the field level provided strong support for the structure, and the program was acknowledged as a "best practice" in psychosocial management at the 2007 Humanitarian Coordinators' meeting. As a result of these successes, CISMU has proposed expanding the program to the global level.

With a view toward building a worldwide network of UN affiliated counselors, delivering services consistent with the best practices in crisis management, the CISMU established a Consultative Working Group on Stress that included a panel of globally distinguished experts in the traumatic stress management. Criteria for selection included recognized expertise in the area of traumatic stress management and accessibility to global networks of professional mental health practitioners. A meeting was held in Paris April 10 -13, 2006 that included Mark Lerner (President of the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress), Louis Crocq (President of the Francophone Association for Traumatic Stress and originator of the French National Medico psychological Emergency Program), Didier Cremniter (National Committee on Medico-psychological Emergencies), Nayla Chidiac (Medico Psychological Emergency Cells of Paris), Mark Van Ommeren (WHO focal point for Emergency Mental Health and Stress), Jeffrey Mitchell (International Critical Incident Stress Foundation), Ruth Sembajwe, (Head of the United Nations Staff Counselor’s Office, OHRM, DM), and Moussa Ba, Chief (UNDSS Critical Incident Stress Management Unit). As a follow up to the Paris initiative, a second meeting was held in December in New York to harmonize and finalize the contents of the Course.

As a result of the meeting, a group of the world's leading experts on crisis and traumatic stress management agreed on a scientific, holistic approach to the topic and further, assisted in developing a UN specific counselors' training package. A ninety-hour course has been designed that incorporates both the strong practical and theoretical orientations of the experts. The material emphasizes the individual's inherent capacity for healing and recovering from ordeals while acknowledging important cultural and diversity perspectives. It comprehensively encompasses key aspects of stress and crisis management, providing an array of tools—including assessment and strategic planning, human communication and crisis intervention (for individuals and for small and large groups), management of mass disasters, and advice to decisions makers in crisis settings.

The inaugural Certification Training in Crisis and Stress Management Course included fifteen (15) UN counselors from around the globe representing eleven (11) nationalities and ten (10) UN duty stations or missions. Conducted in Glen Cove, Long Island March 11-23, 2007, the Course was endorsed by the Consultative Working Group on Stress and administered in collaboration with four of the experts referenced above: Louis Crocq, Didier Cremniter, Mark Lerner, Jeffrey Mitchell and United Nations counselors who provided vital input on topics particularly relevant to UN staff. Because the course content was equivalent to the extensive training offered by these respective organizations to practicing professionals, participants received official certification from the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, the French Institute of Research and Education in Traumatic Stress and the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation.

The completion of this initiative represents a remarkable accomplishment within the field of critical incident stress management, building a bridge between the French and the American approaches to crisis and traumatic stress management and taking into account WHO's important recommendations in this area. The resources of leading experts on traumatic stress management have been adjusted to reflect the complex realities of the United Nations resulting in the development of a unified, standardized approach to crisis and stress management that will ultimately facilitate the provision of improved psychosocial services to UN staff members world wide.