Postdisaster Counselling: Personal, Professional, and Ethical Issues



Publication Details

Cooper, L., Briggs, L. & Bagshaw, S. (2018). Postdisaster Counselling: Personal, Professional, and Ethical Issues. Australian Social Work, 71 (4), 430-443.


Volunteer counsellors face particular challenges in postdisaster interventions. This research investigates personal, professional, and ethical issues faced by mental health volunteer counsellors recruited to a counselling service that emerged following the 2011 earthquakes in the Canterbury region of New Zealand. Earthquakes create major community disruption that can overwhelm existing service systems and require new agency arrangements and increased use of volunteers to manage and provide services. The disaster exposed counsellors to personal challenges in their own lives as well as those of their clients and significantly affected their professional practice. The findings indicate that emergency organisations and professional registration bodies should give further consideration to the management of volunteers and their early intervention work in postdisaster counselling. IMPLICATIONS Delivery of postdisaster services must encompass service management, targeted interventions, and supervision. When counsellors and clients experience the same disaster personal, professional, and ethical aspects are intertwined. Counsellors need self-care and support to manage these events. Further arrangements could be made to ensure professional insurance is available for volunteer counsellors postdisaster.

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