Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Nursing Best Practice Guidelines

Three Core Components of Crises

The crisis theorists referenced in this guideline confirm that crises contain three (3) core components:

  1. A precipitating event occurs. The experience of stressful events is not in itself a crisis, and is not always evident to the client. This first phase may or may not develop into a full-blown crisis, depending on personal and social circumstances.
  2. Perception of the event leads to subjective distress. Subjective distress can take the form of many feelings or emotions that often feel overwhelming or confusing for the person in crisis. If subjective distress does not impair coping or functioning, one is experiencing manageable stress but is not in crisis.
  3. The client’s usual coping methods fail. As long as the client’s ability to function emotionally, occupationally, and interpersonally is not impaired, he/she is not in crisis.
  4. These three components must be recognized and identified by nurses as they work toward helping the client resolve the crisis.