How Emergency Therapists Provide Support In Times Of Crisis

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated May 15, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide, substance use, or abuse which could be triggering to the reader.
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Whether you’re experiencing a severe bout of depression or another mental health crisis, emergency therapists and crisis counselors are available to help. These therapists can provide quick, efficient support to people coping with serious mental health issues and other pressing matters. Emergency therapists are trained to determine what someone needs during a high-stress situation, making sure the individual gets the right care and support. There is no need to feel hesitation or shame in contacting an emergency mental health lifeline if you feel you need it. Read on to learn more about emergency therapists, the role they play, and situations they can help with. 

You don't have to face mental health challenges alone

How emergency therapists can help

Emergency therapists offer immediate support and guidance to individuals and families experiencing a crisis. In such situations, their expertise in mental health, behavioral issues, and trauma can be invaluable. This article will address the different aspects of emergency therapists' work, including crisis intervention and assessment and treatment, for example, and how emergency therapy sessions work.

  • Crisis Intervention: During a mental health crisis, emergency therapists can provide support to both the person and their family as they manage and work through challenging situations. The goal of crisis intervention is to create a safe space where people can share their feelings and get helpful advice. Skilled crisis counselors may rely on proven therapeutic methods to help the person in crisis alleviate their symptoms and feel more stable. 
  • Assessment And Treatment: Emergency therapists may carefully consider the person's main concerns such as signs of trauma or other mental health problems. This assessment can help the therapist figure out the most effective way to help the individual. After the assessment, emergency therapists may work with the person in crisis, and sometimes their family, to create a plan for treatment. This plan could include short-term coping strategies, connections to community resources, or suggestions for further support from a mental health professional.

How emergency therapy sessions work

A person in crisis or their family member can start an emergency session by connecting with a mental health crisis hotline. There are various hotlines available depending on the specific needs of the individual.

Through active listening and empathy, emergency therapists help clients by giving their advice on how to cope and what steps might be most beneficial to take next.

During emergency therapy sessions, the main goal is to address immediate needs and concerns. This could involve making a safety plan, finding resources or referrals, or making sure the individual has supportive people around them. After the sessions, individuals may be encouraged to seek ongoing mental health support.

Situations requiring emergency therapists

There are different scenarios in which a person might seek help for a crisis. Emergency therapists can help in the following situations:

  • Suicidal Thoughts Or Intentions: If someone is having thoughts about suicide, it's important to get professional help right away. Emergency therapists can provide guidance and support, helping people work through their emotional distress and find ways to cope without hurting themselves.
  • Panic Attacks: Experiencing a panic attack can be unsettling and make a person feel out of control. An emergency therapist can help provide techniques to manage panic, identify the trigger, and ease the intense anxiety during the crisis.
  • Substance Use Crisis: People who have problems with substance use or addiction may require immediate intervention, especially if they overdose or have withdrawal symptoms. Emergency therapists can provide counseling and support to help manage the mental health concerns that may be contributing to the substance use disorder. They can also help the individual find treatment resources such as support groups or long-term mental health care, for example. 
  • Domestic Violence Or Abuse Situations: Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or abuse may need immediate assistance to ensure their safety and manage their emotions. In such situations, an emergency therapist's skills can be valuable in providing guidance and reassurance. The therapist can offer resources to meet the individual’s immediate needs and suggest options for therapy to help individuals begin the healing process. 
  • Self-Harm Behaviors: Those who engage in self-harm may benefit from the help of an emergency therapist. An experienced professional can assess the severity of the situation and teach the individual how to cope with their emotional pain in a healthier way. This can lower their chances of engaging in self-harm in the future.

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources. Support is available 24/7.

Getting help from trained crisis professionals when it’s needed can save lives and set the stage for long-term recovery and healing.


Where to reach out during emergency situations

In emergency situations, it can be important to know where to reach out for help. There are several resources available for people in need of immediate assistance. Whether you're facing a mental health crisis, domestic violence, or substance use issues, these resources can provide support and guidance:

  • 988 Suicide And Crisis Lifeline: For individuals experiencing a mental health crisis that involves thoughts of suicide, reaching out to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline may be the first step to receiving an assessment, screening, and preliminary counseling. Dial 988 to connect with this free support hotline 24/7.
  • Domestic Violence Hotline: People facing domestic violence can get in contact with the National Domestic Violence Hotline. This resource provides 24/7 support to anyone affected by domestic violence, regardless of gender, age, or background. Trained advocates are available to provide support, crisis intervention, and information on resources in your area.
  • Crisis Text Line: If you prefer texting, the Crisis Text Line can be accessed 24/7 by texting HOME to 741741. The Crisis Text Line connects you with a trained crisis counselor who can help you with any type of emotional or mental health crisis.
  • Disaster Distress Helpline: The Disaster Distress Helpline can provide support during natural or human-caused disasters. This helpline connects people affected by disasters with trained counselors who can offer emotional support and valuable resources to cope with the aftermath of a disaster.
  • Veterans Crisis Line: Additional support for veterans and their families is available through the Veterans Crisis Line. This helpline is specifically designed to address the unique challenges faced by veterans, providing assistance and connecting them with mental health services.
  • SAMHSA National Helpline: The SAMHSA National Helpline can be reached at 1-800-662-4357. This resource offers support for people struggling with substance use disorders. 
  • Other Resources: There are also various other resources available for specific situations. The Trevor Lifeline (LGBTQ Lifeline) is available at 1-866-488-7386 for LGBTQ-specific mental health crises. If you're experiencing an eating disorder, the National Eating Disorder Association Helpline is available at 1-800-931-2237.

In addition, there are walk-in crisis services such as clinics or psychiatric urgent care centers, for instance, that can offer immediate attention in your local area. 

Online therapy platforms

Online therapy platforms have become a popular way to access convenient support and mental health services. Though these platforms can assist you with a variety of needs and situations, they aren’t suitable for emergencies. Still, many people enjoy the flexibility and accessibility of online mental health services. Through online therapy platforms like BetterHelp, you can connect with a therapist using video chats, phone calls, or in-app messaging. This means you can message your therapist at any time, even between sessions, and expect to hear back from them in a reasonable amount of time. With online therapy, you can find ongoing support from a therapist who is skilled and trained in the specific area you need assistance with in a way that fits your schedule and comfort.

The efficacy of online therapy

Online therapy can be an effective tool for addressing and treating different mental health concerns. In a study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh, researchers found online cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to be  “a more effective treatment for anxiety and depression than primary care”. Participants who completed more CBT sessions had even more significant improvements in mood and anxiety symptoms. 

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
You don't have to face mental health challenges alone


Emergency therapists can provide immediate support for people experiencing emotional distress. They offer a nonjudgmental space where clients can express their feelings and thoughts during challenging times. When there's a crisis, emergency therapists can provide advice and resources to help people get through challenging situations. Emergency therapists aren't meant to replace long-term therapy, and their main goal is to help clients in crisis feel more stable until they can access ongoing care. However, they can be a valuable support system for those facing a crisis or who need urgent mental health services. Although online therapy platforms aren't meant for emergency situations, they can still be a helpful resource for people who want long-term therapy or help with non-emergencies. By making it convenient to connect with licensed therapists, these platforms can help people maintain their mental health and overall well-being. For more information and to connect with an online counselor, reach out to BetterHelp today. 

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