Pink Folder/Briefing and Debriefing for Field Assignment

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Debriefing

Three Categories of Debriefing

  1. Briefing Those Selected.
  2. Routine Debriefing.
  3. Crisis Debriefing.

Briefing Those Selected

Debriefing starts before the team ever leaves[1].

The following must be covered:

  • Team dynamics.
  • Cultural adaptation.
  • Re-entry adjustment.
  • Physical issues.
  • Spiritual issues.

Role playing which stresses the individual and then gives them the tools to deal with the experiences of outreach is the best way of communicating some of the cross-cultural shocks and adjustments. Telling them that they will feel bad is not a self-fulfilling prophecy but a protection. This is known, in part, as "stress inoculation" and is highly preventative of later problems on the field or on return.

If all the pre-outreach briefing is adhered to, then the majority of debriefing work is routine and consists of helping people adjust back home.

Routine Debriefing

The purpose of routine debriefing is to bring understanding and closure to what has been experienced, to help with unresolved issues or conflicts, and to prepare for the next step.

In routine debriefing, the following areas are covered: team dynamics, cultural adaptation, re-entry, adjustment, physical issues and spiritual issues. (Ideally, these issues should be covered thoroughly in the briefing.)

Routine debriefing is also more effectively covered in a group setting, where "the group debriefs itself" because of common experiences that have been shared. The team leader can set up a routine debriefing, keeping in mind to give time for the individuals to do the following:

  • Talk about their positive experiences with people who understand.
  • Talk through feelings of isolation, disorientation, mourning, guilt, conflict resolution, again to people who understand.
  • Be given practical help and guidelines for settling back and how to think about the future Routine debriefing for a team on the field is best done before the smaller team joins the rest of the larger team (or class). Then all are better prepared for the larger group debriefing. This is especially important if the smaller team has unresolved issues that do not apply to the larger group.

It is good to remember that goals and objectives which were clearly set during the briefing process should be re-evaluated on a regular basis during outreach. One way this can happen is to have regular weekly or bi-weekly meetings to re-examine the past week(s) and gauge how "on track" the team is. Thus, adjustments can be made, expectations and disappointments can be expressed and resolved, and the team can be all the more cohesive.

Below is a sample of questions that could be asked in a routine debriefing. These questions cover four areas: arriving, being there, leaving, and expectations. Remember that you need not read these questions word for word, but you can be creative and personal in how you set up a debriefing time. The important thing is to address the topics listed.

Questions:

  • "What was it like arriving?"
  • "What were your hopes when going out?"
  • "What expectations did you have?"
  • "Were they fulfilled / unfulfilled?"
  • "What was it like being there?"
  • "What were some highlights? / lowlights?"
  • "How do you feel when you anticipate leaving?"
  • "What will you miss?"
  • "Were you be happy to leave?"

Debriefing on team life

Remember that you need not read these questions word for word, but you can be creative and personal in how you set up a debriefing time. The important thing is to address the topics listed. When doing a debrief on team life (specifically aimed at discovering team functions and issues), the following areas should be covered:

Questions:

  • "What were your expectations of people for team life?"
  • "What were the "good" aspects of the team?"
  • "What were the "not so good" aspects of the team?"
  • "What have been the high/lowlights of team life?"
  • "What have you learnt from the experience of team life?"
  • "What conflicts have you had?"
  • "How did you resolved them?"
  • "How did your team responsibility working out?"
  • "Were your team-mates responding positively to you?"
  • "What you have any problems with your job?"
  • "How can we help?"

Crisis Debriefing

Crisis debriefing is necessary in the following three situations.

  • Personal breakdown.
  • "Difficult circumstance" location.
  • Unexpected trauma.

Personal Breakdown

The person breaks down on the field or on return through:

  • Poor selection.
  • Poor orientation.
  • Poor pastoral support on the field.
  • Poor routine debriefing.
  • Poor support on return from the field.

There is no excuse for crisis debriefing for the above reasons in YWAM.

"Difficult Circumstance" Location

The well briefed and selected person has been sent to what is technically known as a 'difficult circumstance' This includes war zones, famine zones, natural disasters, etc. The criteria is judged to be a situation which puts a person at significant risk of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (PTSD, not PDTS!) Such people are best debriefed (or at least assessed) within 36 hours after the event (preferably in the country in which it happened) and then a five week follow up. Various agencies are now moving to the position that if this cannot happen the person or team does not go.

Unexpected Trauma

The well briefed and selected person experiences an unexpected trauma. This includes:

  • Imprisonment.
  • Hostage taking/kidnap.
  • Rape.
  • Attempted murder or very serious assault.
  • Life threatening accident.

PTSD is a crippling, potentially life threatening (due to suicide), psychiatric disorder. It has also been known as shell shock or battle fatigue. Treatment is required urgently if present. It is best thought of as an intense anxiety state which doesn't go away - ever.

Should a person experience an unexpected trauma while on outreach, a routine debriefing is not appropriate. This would call for a crisis debriefing, which would be conducted by someone trained to do such, and should be given priority. The person must be debriefed and assessed for PTSD 36 hours and 5 weeks after the event.

If the person is in either category 1 or 2, someone from the Pastoral Support Team must be notified immediately.

Because of the serious nature of these situations, immediately in this case means the shortest possible time measured in hours and minutes.

Notes

  1. The items in this section need to be included in the teams orientation.