Acute Stress, Grief and Trauma – CRIS 303

CG • Section 8WK • 11/08/2019 to 04/16/2020 • Modified 07/28/2020

Course Description

A general overview and analysis of the impact and consequences of acute stress on victims, first responders, families, and community members. Particular attention is paid to effective counseling strategies, methods and techniques for immediate response, fostering resiliency, and cultural differences.


CRIS 302


With the increase in the number of critical incidents and natural disasters in the past few years, over 80% of individuals will experience acute stress at some point in their lives. Including incidents that involve death, such as murder, suicide, accidents, starvation, sudden infant death syndrome, miscarriages, heart attacks, and natural disasters, the long-term effects of grief and trauma can wreak havoc on its victims. The ability to work through the acute stress can mitigate the effects of long-term trauma in the lives of those impacted. The combined strategies of effective psychological first aid and grief counseling can relieve the acute stress response, foster resiliency, speed up the healing process, and mitigate the effects of posttraumatic stress disorder in the life of a traumatized individual.

Measurable Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  1. Articulate a theoretical understanding of the nature and impact of critical incident stress.
  2. Define acute stress and examine and discuss the consequences of and factors related to acute stress.
  3. Apply relevant Scripture passages to the issues of grief and trauma.
  4. Explain the nature and consequences of stress, as well as factors that might help determine the intensity, severity, and duration of a grief response.
  5. Define and implement the grief cycle and its stages in counseling.
  6. Differentiate complicated grief from normal grief and loss.
  7. Examine and explain how abuse impacts the lives of its victims.
  8. Describe how trauma, stress, and depression and anxiety relate in sufferers of PTSD.
  9. Articulate a theoretical understanding of how attachment styles relate to acute stress, grief, and trauma and implement the components of effective therapies counselors can utilize.
  10. Describe the characteristics of acute care and how psychological first aid differs from psychotherapy.
  11. Articulate the contraindications of acute care and when a person needs immediate mental health intervention.
  12. Identify biblical principles for coping with adversity, and discuss ways in which the church can foster and sustain resiliency and hope.

Course Assignment

Textbook readings and lecture presentations

Course Requirements Checklist

After reading the Course Syllabus and Student Expectations, the student will complete the related checklist found in Module/Week 1.

Discussion Board Forums (3)

Discussion boards are collaborative learning experiences. Therefore, the student will create a thread in response to the 3 questions posed by the instructor. Each thread must be at least 300 words. In addition to the thread, the student is required to reply to 1 other classmate’s thread. Each reply must be at least 200 words. (MLO: A, B, C, E, F, I, L)

Quizzes (8)

The student will complete eight quizzes, one in each module/week, covering the Reading & Study material. Each quiz will contain 20 multiple-choice and true/false questions as well as one essay question. Quizzes will be open book/open notes, and have a 60 minute time limit. (MLO: A, B, D, E, F, G, H)

Crisis Personnel Project

Part 1

The student will identify a member of the community (“Crisis Personnel”) who is involved in the regular response to crises in the community that must be approved by the instructor. Examples include a police officer, firefighter, medical/mental health professional, or pastoral leader. In 150 words, the student will provide a description of the personnel’s regular response to crisis. Additionally, the student will describe what he/she hopes to learn and apply from the interview. (MLO: D, G)

Part 2

The student will interview a Crisis Personnel (previously approved by the instructor) using a list of 5 questions provided in the instructions document (do not add more questions to the interview) and will prepare a 500–750-word write up on his/her findings in the interview, as well as a personal reflection. The student will be provided with etiquette and tips on how to conduct his/her interview in the instructions. The student may not conduct the interview until the interviewee has been identified in the appropriate module/week and approved by the instructor. Students must use at least 1 scholarly source and 1 biblical integration in the personal reflection section. The scholarly source must be current (published within the last 5 years). (MLO: D, G)

Research Paper

The student will build a 1250-2000-word Research Paper that summarizes and discusses acute stress response. Over the duration of the course, the student will build and submit his/her paper in current APA format in 3 parts: creating a title page, purpose statement, outline, and reference document, creating an annotated bibliography, and submitting his/her final paper. The Research Paper will include a reference page with at least 5 outside sources as well as course texts and Scripture. All outside sources must be scholarly in nature and must have been published in the last 5 years. Use of “pop culture” resources such as Psychology Today or websites that cannot be clearly classified as scholarly is not permitted.

Title, Purpose, Outline, and References

The student will compose the title page, write a purpose statement for the paper and include an outline and three references for the paper. The student will have access to interactive tutorial exercises to help him/her master current APA title page formatting.

Annotated Bibliography

The student will compose an annotated bibliography for the Research Paper. The student will compile a list of at least 5 scholarly sources (this number will not include the required texts or Bible) and that would be considered current (published within the last 5 years) in current APA format. Each source citation must be accompanied by a brief paragraph (100–150 words) summarizing what the source is about and the relevant information it brings to your paper. The student will have access to interactive tutorial exercises to help him/her master current APA reference page formatting.

Final Submission

Utilizing information presented in this course, as well as theoretical and practical elements from academic and Christian sources, the student will compile an original Research Paper of 1250-2000 words of body text in current APA formatting. The Research Paper must include a current APA title page, abstract, and reference page and contain a minimum of 5 scholarly sources in addition to the textbooks and Scripture. Course materials and Scripture cannot be relied upon for major sections in the paper, with the exception of the biblical integration section. The body of the paper will summarize and discuss the various symptoms of acute stress reactions, acute stress disorder (as well as the difference between the two), the diagnostic guidelines, and effective treatment strategies. The student will submit this assignment to SafeAssign to check for potential plagiarism and will be granted 1 draft submission to help him/her gauge the validity of his/her work. (MLO: A, B, C, D, H, J, K, L)

Case Study

The student will review a case provided in Blackboard and will complete a 750-word paper focused on exploring the nature of the crisis presented, suggesting steps for alleviating the crisis, teaching coping skills, and developing resiliency. A final section must assess the grieving process of the primary victim and whether he/she effectively grieved the loss. Integration of at least 3 scholarly sources is required, 1 of which must be from the course content (texts or presentations). Outside sources must be current (published within the last 5 years). (MLO: A, D, E, F, H, K)