From 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina: Helping Others and Oneself Cope Following Disasters

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Abstract

There are many psychologists who provided help to others following the terrorist attack of 9/11 and the natural disaster of Hurricane Katrina, but fewer who also experienced both of these tragic events first hand and also served others as a helper. This article is a personal account of a New York psychologist who endured 9/11 and then moved to Louisiana and endured Hurricane Katrina, and the personal and professional impact of these events. The unique and extremely challenging nature of the crisis work under these conditions is discussed, including techniques that seemed to be most effective for providing help to others, as well as techniques and behaviors that were helpful to the psychologist's self-care during and following these catastrophes. The relationship to broader issues in the field of psychology and mental health is also discussed, including the ethics of psychologist self-care and practical recommendations for the providers of disaster mental health services.

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