Inside Disruption Blog

Transitioning Toward Future Focus

Clare McCullough
March 29, 2016

This entry will examine the last step of the ACT model – Transitioning toward future focus. R3 Continuum Consultants use the ACT model, when responding to critical incidents because it works. We have learned that this model’s objectives are organizationally focused, and are based on principles of Psychological First Aid. Today, we will focus on the “T” and the significance it has for consultants responding to potentially disruptive events at a workplace. Transition implies guiding the organization and its’ employees toward the next steps they need in the process of recovering and returning to fuller functioning. It is the point in the Critical Incident Response (CIR) when the consultant suggests coping skills and leaves employees with a sense of hope and confidence that they can make the transition toward future focus. Once we have acknowledged the incident, and communicated care, competence and compassion to the employees; we must now begin connecting them to the resources and supports they might need, once the initial crisis has passed. Consultants will provide employees with information about immediate coping strategies, as well as the EAP services that are available to help them move forward.


In the relatively brief encounter we have with employees, while on-site, how do we assist them in transitioning to the future focus? How do we instill hope that they can, and will, make it through this disruptive event? These are not easy questions to answer, but the natural tendency towards resilience in humans may surprise us. Most people, after going through a robbery, a reduction in force, or even the death of a coworker can get back to “pre-incident” functioning. There will be some who experience a heightened, or more extreme reaction; however, as a rule, most employees that an R3 consultant encounters will have sound coping skills and support systems already in place. They just need to be reminded that this unexpected event has the potential to cause what we know to be expected reactions. Our interactions are successful because we are providing time sensitive education, in order to reassure employees that what they are going through is “normal”, and they will heal and recover.


This process may touch on our own insecurities or fears. How do we, as consultants, combat that inner voice that pipes up and says, “these employees will never be able to get over this”…or…”If this were me, there is no way I would be able to move on”. There very well could be a part of us that doubts the resiliencies of the people we meet with. The employees who have experienced a potentially disruptive, or critical event, at their place of work will likely never forget what happened. It may shape their lives in a way where they will never be the same. But they will also be able to, in time, and for some, in a short amount of time, return to work and return to life. They will remember the incident itself, but will not experience an unending barrage of the difficult emotional and/or physical reactions that they dealt with in the very beginning. It is not so dissimilar to how mental health professionals are able to treat clients. Even clients who may have lived through unspeakable traumas. Because we have hope for our clients. We believe in their capacity to heal and overcome. In the same way, we must also have hope, and really believe that the employees we meet with can and will transition from this incident. They may never forget, but they will be able to move through.


The types of coping skills that you, the consultant, may recommend during an intervention will vary on what the organization wants communicated and what services their Employee Assistance Program has to offer. It will also depend on your own training and experience. Some ideas for assisting with transition to future focus include: tapping into strategies for resiliency, encouraging coworkers to “check in” with each other periodically, helping people recall what difficult times they may have already gone through and reminding them they were able to make it through that, and they will make it through this. It can also be a helpful reminder to inform employees that any previous losses or traumas may be re-triggered by this incident, and discuss when seeking face to face therapy might be wise. While functioning as the “triager” in this focused intervention, consultants who utilize the ACT model will be providing the employees with necessary tools, in that moment. The consultant’s ability to acknowledge the event, communicate compassion, and guide employees into transition towards what the future looks like will allow for healing and a return to productivity. A return to life.

Clare McCullough