Make Your Own Psychiatric Triage: What to do when you are in a non-life threatening crisis to feel more Safe

Undeniably, there are times when we all feel out of control. There is no question that when we are in the midst of a crisis, whether it be interpersonal, existential, financial, etc., we want to feel more in control of our particular situation. This article seeks to help readers feel more safe and less out-of-control when they are in a non-life threatening crisis. As this article unfolds, it will elaborate on strategies to cultivate feelings of safety and will recommend tools to put together a plan of action to work towards possible resolutions for your problem. As always, be sure to discuss your plan and situation with your therapist before practicing the skills discussed here in your living environment.

Step One: Discontinuing the Behavior

For most of us the problem starts with the behavior, or impulse to persist and continue to feeding into whatever it is that needs to stop. For example, if your gambling, the problem really begins with the impulse to spend more money (e.g. running to the ATM) and the irrational belief that if you spend more the odds of winning will turn in your favor. On an interpersonal level, the problem may be on the level of perception (e.g. engaging in verbal sparring sessions to get your point across in an argument) and the belief that persisting with conversation will ultimately lead to winning the argument. Sometimes, persistence or continued attempts to remedy a situation is not advisable.

So, one strategy to discontinue a behavior when you feel like you cant stop yourself is telling someone else, e.g a friend or family member you are having a problem. The person you tell might not be able to stop you from doing what your doing but the very act of putting the behavior on another person’s radar will in fact make you think twice about persisting and engaging in the behavior you are trying to discontinue. Another strategy that is less external and will encourage to rely more on your own devices is asking yourself three questions when you feel like you cant stop. 1) how is what I am about to do going to help? 2) What are the implications of continuing with this behavior 3) what do I need to do to stop myself ? You might not find the answers to your question right away, but, again, you may slow down the impulse just enough not to persist as quickly as you might have without shifting your awareness internally.

Step Two: Identify a Safe Space

The next step in developing a psychiatric triage truly begins after the behavior is extinguished, even temporarily. In this step, I recommend finding a place of safety. This means a place in which the impulse to persist in the problem behavior is minimal or reduced given the environment or people around you supporting your goals. It is imperative to know the where, the who, and the how…. (this means knowing where to go to feel safe, who needs to be around you to support your goal, and how to get there). Therefore, planning is essential. Knowing where a place of safety is will take some practice and learning moments before you truly know where to go where the impulse to persist in the problem behavior is minimal enough for you to continue towards your goal. Knowing the right people you need around you will also take practice because, as much as we might like spending time with some folks, they might be enabling our misperceptions or our problem behaviors. I therefore recommend trouble-shooting before you are in crisis and not during a moment when your insight and judgment are distorted and you may not be able to decipher who is truly helping or an ally in your cause.

As always, planning and practice are essential. Remembering that set-backs in executing these skills are learning moments. Problem solve what works, what doesn’t, and move forward in your life, ALL(ways).


  • J. Peters writes on his lived experience, and also brings his story into his work. J blogs daily on his site and for other sites around the United States and Europe, bringing his passion for mental health to consumers everywhere.

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