The Psychology of Crisis

Tackling the Psychological Impacts of Natural Disasters

The International Humanitarian Crisis Simulation at DU bridged the conceptual divide between humanitarian assistance and disaster psychology with innovative research techniques and a drive to effect change for the public good. The simulation provided students a unique opportunity to apply practical aid techniques and use the tools of clinical psychology to respond to a challenging, real-time humanitarian crisis scenario.

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About the Project

The annual crisis simulation called on students to apply a wide range of classroom-learned skills in a situation that mimicked the stressful, rapidly shifting nature of an international humanitarian crisis. Simulations varied by year, and focused on scenarios in which a large population had been suddenly and forcefully displaced from their place of origin, whether by natural disaster or violent conflict. 

The project drew on concepts from both international humanitarian relief and disaster psychology, presenting students with challenges designed to mimic the social, economic and cultural forces that shape international crises.

Over the course of the two-day simulation, students worked with their peers to create solutions that equitably served the needs of the affected population while increasing their knowledge of practical techniques that gave them a competitive edge after concluding their studies.

The International Humanitarian Crisis Simulation was the first clinical/humanitarian program of its kind and was acknowledged in 2006 for Innovation in Professional Psychology Education by the National Council of Schools and Programs in Professional Psychology (NCSPP).

Discover Research at DU

Chen Reis

Chen Reis is a clinical associate professor and the Director of the Humanitarian Assistance program at the University of Denver's Josef Korbel School of International Studies. Her work focuses on preparing students for careers in the international humanitarian sector, and is an internationally recognized expert on gender-based violence in humanitarian crises.