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Skills for Psychological Recovery (SPR)

Skills for Psychological Recovery (SPR) is an evidence-informed modular intervention that aims to help survivors gain skills to manage distress and cope with post-disaster stress and adversity. SPR is appropriate to use in the Recovery Phase by mental health professionals and other disaster recovery workers. It can be delivered in a variety of settings (e.g., schools, clinics, hospitals, assisted living facilities, houses of worship, community centers, libraries, and homes). Each skill can be covered in one contact and then reinforced through the use of handouts and practice. Although multiple visits are encouraged, each contact can stand alone. The SPR Field Operations Guide was developed by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and the National Center for PTSD, with contributions from individuals involved in disaster research and response. SPR has been incorporated in numerous post-disaster programs in the United States and internationally. It is regularly implemented by states who have received funding from SAMHSA's Crisis Counseling Program.

SPR is not formal mental health treatment, but a secondary prevention model that utilizes skills-building components that have been found helpful in a variety of post-trauma situations. Research suggests that a skills-building approach is more effective than supportive counseling. SPR is appropriate for developmental levels across the lifespan, and is culturally informed. Skills can be taught individually, with families, and in groups.

SPR teaches six main skills:

  • Gathering Information and Prioritizing Assistance helps survivors to identify their primary concerns and to pick the SPR strategy to focus on.
  • Building Problem-Solving Skills teaches survivors the tools to break problems down into more manageable chunks, identify a range of ways to respond, and create an action plan to move forward.
  • Promoting Positive Activities guides survivors to increase meaningful and positive activities in their schedule, with the goal of building resilience and bringing more fulfillment and enjoyment into their life.
  • Managing Reactions helps survivors to better manage distressing physical and emotional reactions by using such tools as breathing retraining, writing exercises, and identifying and planning for triggers and reminders.
  • Promoting Helpful Thinking assists survivors learn how their thoughts influence their emotions, become more aware of what they are saying to themselves, and replace unhelpful with more helpful thoughts.
  • Rebuilding Healthy Social Connections encourages survivors to access and enhance social and community supports while keeping in mind the current post-disaster recovery circumstances.
The Skills for Psychological Recovery Field Operations Guide was developed by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and the National Center for PTSD. Members of the National Center for PTSD and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, as well as other individuals involved in coordinating and participating in disaster response, contributed to the current document.

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Copyright © 2010 Berkowitz, S., Bryant, R., Brymer, M., Hamblen, J., Jacobs, A., Layne, C., Macy, R., Osofsky, H., Pynoos, R., Ruzek, J., Steinberg, A., Vernberg, E., Watson, P. (National Center for PTSD and National Child Traumatic Stress Network). All rights reserved. You are welcome to copy or redistribute this material in print or electronically provided the text is not modified, the authors and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) and the National Center for PTSD (NCPTSD) and are cited in any use, and no fee is charged for copies of this publication. Unauthorized commercial publication or exploitation of this material is specifically prohibited. Anyone wishing to use any of this material for commercial use must request and receive prior written permission from the NCTSN. Permission for such use is granted on a case-by-case basis at the sole discretion of NCTSN. If you would like permission to adapt or license these materials, please contact Melissa Brymer, Ph.D. at