Traumatic Incident Stress Management Program

Veda Dove

The Traumatic Incident Stress Management Program (TISM) is a statewide program that provides specialized services to State of Michigan employees who have been exposed to a traumatic incident.


“Events that are sudden and unexpected such as violence, suicide, or an accidental death or injury or those that are out of the ordinary could require the use of TISM services,” says Melinda Mackey, state TISM coordinator.


Under the leadership of the Employee Service Program (ESP) located in the

 Veda Dove

Office of the State Employer, a certified TISM team may assist employees with on-site support, one-on-one individualized services or group services such as defusing or debriefing sessions.


The 162 member specially trained TISM team includes 60 volunteers from the Department of Corrections. Veda Dove serves as the Department of Corrections Coordinator.


“Corrections employees are trained to handle difficult situations and emergencies every day,” said Dove. “However, when a traumatic situation occurs, a little assistance from trained staff is meaningful.”


While TISM staff provides a continuum of services, debriefing is the most familiar. A debriefing is a specialized process that is confidential and voluntary.



"I strongly encourage my staff to participate. The peer support as well as the support from an outside agency is very worthwhile." Warden Joan Yukins, Robert Scott Correctional Facility.

“We help individuals understand that the events are abnormal, but what they are experiencing is normal,” said Mackey. “It’s an opportunity for them to see that they are not alone in their reactions. We provide education that helps them to develop coping strategies.”


Lasting approximately two hours, the debriefing process generally takes place 48-72 hours after the incident.


“For debriefing to be optimal, they need to come out of shock and begin to feel and identify what they are experiencing. This is the first step toward healing,” explained Mackey. “Not everyone experiences the same event in the same way or recovers at the same rate. People handle difficult situations well most of the time. But that one incident could be the one to put you over your balance level and cause a more acute reaction.”


TISM is confidential and voluntary. It offers an opportunity for employees to process the facts, thoughts and reactions they experienced and to learn appropriate coping skills. It is not a form of psychotherapy nor is it an operational critique or any type of investigation of employees or the worksite.


“The program is a very valuable resource for both wardens and staff,” said Warden Joan Yukins, Robert Scott Correctional Facility (SCF). “It gives the individuals who have been involved in a critical incident an opportunity to share concerns with outside sources as well as a chance to vent within a group. In a debriefing, everyone involved in an incident can get together without any supervisors or administrators and express themselves about what happened.”


The TISM team helps to determine who needs what type of service so it is individualized and then the process continues with follow-up and referrals where appropriate.


Traumatic Incident Debriefing


State of Michigan employees may be exposed to a variety of traumatic incidents. Confidential assistance can be provided to those employees by specially trained state TISM team members. The purpose is to lessen the impact, accelerate the recovery process and provide coping strategies.

“A wide range of emotions including anger, guilt, sadness or fear are normal responses to a critical incident,” said Dove. “DOC staff is trained to be strong and professional and may not be comfortable expressing emotions at work. The debriefing provides a safe environment for that.”


The specially trained team of 162 members consists of 1/3 mental health professionals and 2/3 peer support personnel. TISM team members receive two days of basic training through the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF) and the TISM program provides a third day of training that is specific to the State of Michigan. The third day of specialized training focuses more on departmental issues and policies.


“If you are not sure if the incident is appropriate for TISM services, call for a consultation,” says Mackey. " A situation that is not a TISM need may be referred to other services from the Employee Service Program.”


ESP offers State of Michigan employees confidential assistance with work-related and personal concerns that are affecting their work. The counselors provide expert assistance in the identification and resolution of work-related problems.


For information on TISM or other ESP programs call the Lansing office at (800) 521-1377 or the Detroit office at (800) 872-5563.




Michigan Department of Corrections, May 1, 2003