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Free counseling sources for disaster victims



General mental health hotlines:

SAMSHA hotline 1-800-789-2647

This hotline is for disaster victims and substance abuse


Katrina related hotlines:

Mental Health Counseling 1-800-273-talk (8255), TTY 1-800-799-4889

FEMA toll free crisis counseling 1-800-621-FEMA

United Health Care counseling hotline 1-866-615-8700

Department of Health and Human Services crisis hotlines 1-800-273-8255

Coping skills for panic attacks


Information about PTSD


Rape Crisis Information for Hurricane Katrina Rape Survivors


Katrina Rape Relief Information from LaFASA


To learn more about LaFASA or its member sexual assault crisis centers, please visit our homepage or call 985-345-5995.

Support for rape and sexual assault victims from Katrina


Listed below are referral organizations which tell you how to find a therapist near you.

Mental health services locator


This Locator provides you with comprehensive information about mental health services and resources and is useful for professionals, consumers and their families, and the public. You can access this information in several ways by selecting a State of U.S. Territory from the map or drop-down menu.


How do I find treatment?


These resources from the National Mental Health Association can be used to help you find mental health treatment services in your community.


The American Psychological Association- for a referral call 1-800-964-2000.


Although the American Psychological Association is not able to provide direct referrals, you can obtain a referral to a psychologist in your area by calling 1-800-964-2000. The operator will use your zip code to locate and connect you with the referral service of the state psychological association.


The American Art Therapy Association


(AATA) is a national association dedicated to the belief that the creative process involved in the making of art is healing and life enhancing. Founded in 1969 AATA is a not-for-profit organization of approximately 4,750 professionals and students that has established standards for art therapy education, ethics, and practice. AATA committees actively work on professional and educational development, national conferences, regional symposia, publications, governmental affairs, public awareness, research, and other activities that enhance the practice of art therapy.


Hurricane Katrina and post truamatic stress disorder


For information on the psychological effects of natural disasters, also see our section of disaster fact sheets.


Psychological first aid manual.

Health information:



Coping skills

Treatment of PTSD:

"Emergency care

Immediate intervention is important for individuals directly affected by the traumatic event. Emergency care workers focus on achieving the following during the hours and days following the trauma.

-protect survivors from further danger
-treat immediate injuries
-provide food, shelter, fluids, and clothing
-provide safe zone
-locate separated loved ones
-reconnect loved ones
-provide normal social contact
-help reestablish routines
-help resolve transportation, housing, or other issues caused by disaster
-provide grief counseling, stress reduction, and other consultation to enable survivors and families to return to normal life"

"Medications used to reduce the symptoms of PTSD include anxiety-reducing medications and antidepressants, especially the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline HCl (Zoloft). In 2001, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Zoloft as a long-term treatment for PTSD. In a controlled study, Zoloft was effective in safely improving symptoms of PTSD over a period of 28 weeks and reducing the risk of relapse."

"Several types of therapy may be useful and they are often combined in a multi-faceted approach to understand and treat this condition.

-Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on changing specific actions and thoughts through repetitive review of traumatic events, identification of negative behaviors and thoughts, and stress management.
- Group therapy has been useful in decreasing psychological distress, depression, and anxiety in some PTSD sufferers such as sexually abused women and war veterans.
- Psychological debriefing has been widely used to treat victims of natural disasters and other traumatic events such as bombings and workplace shootings, however, recent research shows that psychological debriefing may increase the stress response. Since this type of debriefing focuses on the emotional response of the survivor, it is not recommended for individuals experiencing an extreme level of grief."

"Post-traumatic stress disorder." Jacqueline L. Longe, M.D. and Jill Granger, MS The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Second Edition. Jacqueline L. Longe, Editor. 5 vols. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, 2001.


"A definitive treatment does not yet exist for PTSD nor is there a known cure. However, a number of therapies such as cognitive-behavior therapy, group therapy, and exposure therapy are showing promise. Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on changing specific actions and thoughts with the help of relaxation training and breathing techniques. In exposure therapy, the person relives the traumatic event repeatedly in a controlled environment and then works through the trauma.

A treatment technique known as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) has been employed with some success to treat PTSD. EMDR involves desensitizing the patient to his or her traumatic memories by associating a series of eye movements with both negative and positive events and emotions. The specific eye movements associated with the negative memories are thought to help the brain process the event and come to terms with the trauma. EDMR should only be performed by a healthcare practitioner, usually a clinical psychologist, certified in the technique.

Relaxation training, which is sometimes called anxiety management training, includes breathing exercises and similar techniques intended to help the patient prevent hyperventilation and relieve the muscle tension associated with the fight-or-flight reaction of anxiety. Yoga, aikido,t'ai chi, and dance therapy help patients work with the physical as well as the emotional tensions that either promote anxiety or are created by the anxiety.

Other alternative or complementary therapies are based on physiological and/or energetic understanding of how the trauma is imprinted in the body. These therapies affect a release of stored emotions and resolution of them by working with the body rather than merely talking through the experience. One example of such a therapy is Somatic Experiencing (SE), developed by Dr. Peter Levine. SE is a short-term, biological, body-oriented approach to PTSD or other trauma. This approach heals by emphasizing physiological and emotional responses, without re-traumatizing the person, without placing the person on medication, and without the long hours of conventional therapy.

When used in conjunction with therapies that address the underlying cause of PTSD, relaxation therapies such as hydrotherapy, massage therapy, and aromatherapy are useful to some patients in easing PTSD symptoms. Essential oils of lavender,chamomile, neroli, sweet marjoram, and ylang-ylang are commonly recommended by aromatherapists for stress relief and anxietyreduction.

Research into the prevention of PTSD is also undergoing intensive research. The National Mental Health Association provides RAPID grants that allow researchers to visit disaster scenes to study acute effects and the effectiveness of early intervention. Rapid disaster relief and positive community response appear to be key. Not identifying individual survivors as "victims" also seems to help. Debriefing survivors as quickly as possible after the event can stem the development of PTSD symptoms.
Allopathic treatment

As of mid-2004, allopathic (medical practice that combats disease with remedies to produce effects different from those produced by the disease) treatment consists of a combination of medication along with supportive and cognitive-behavioral therapies. Effective medications include anxiety-reducing medications and antidepressants, especially the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft). In 2001, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Zoloft as a long-term treatment for PTSD. In a controlled study, Zoloft was effective in safely improving symptoms of PTSD over a period of 28 weeks and reducing the risk of relapse. Sleep problems can be lessened by brief treatment with an anti-anxiety drug such as a benzodiazepine like alprazolam (Xanax). However, long-tem use of these drugs can lead to disturbing side effects, such as increased anger. The new research into the biological changes manifested in PTSD patients is leading to additional research on drugs used to monitor hormone levels and brain activity."



American Psychiatric Association. 1000 Wilson Blvd., Ste. 1825, Arlington, VA 22209-3901. (703) 907-7300. http://www.psych.org.

Anxiety Disorders Association of America. 8730 Georgia Ave., Ste. 600, Silver Spring, MD 20910. (240) 485-1001. http://www.adaa.org.

Freedom From Fear. 308 Seaview Ave., Staten Island, NY 10305. (718) 351-1717. http://www.freedomfromfear.com.

International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, 60 Revere Dr., Ste. 500, Northbrook, IL 60062. (847) 480-9028. http://www.istss.org.

National Anxiety Foundation. 3135 Custer Dr., Lexington, KY 40517. (606) 272-7166. http://www.lexington-on-line.com.

National Institute of Mental Health. 6001 Executive Blvd, Rm. 8184, MSC 9663, Bethesda, MD 20892. (866) 615-6464. http://www.nimh.nih.org.

National Mental Health Association. 2001 N. Beauregard St., 12th floor, Alexandria, VA 22311. (800) 969-NMHA. http://www.nmha.org.

"Post-traumatic stress disorder." Mary McNulty. The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. 2nd Edition. Jacqueline L. Longe, Editor. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, 2005.






For more information please contact: http://www.fema.gov/

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