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Online · School of Behavioral Sciences · Psychology

Acute Stress, Grief and Trauma

  • CG
  • Section 8WK
  • 11/08/2019 to 04/16/2020
  • Modified 02/03/2020

Contact Information

See detailed faculty information in Blackboard.

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 Resources

Required Resources

The resources below are provided in the course at no cost to the student.

Freeman, S. J. (2005). Grief and loss: Understanding the journey. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Liberty University Custom: Dass-Brailsford, P. (2016). Crisis counseling: Acute stress, grief and trauma. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Disclaimer: The above resources provide information consistent with the latest research regarding the subject area. Liberty University does not necessarily endorse specific personal, religious, philosophical, or political positions found in these resources.

Recommended Resource

Van der Kolk, B. A., McFarlane, A. C., & Weisaeth, L. (2006). Traumatic stress: The effects of overwhelming experience on mind, body, and society. New York, NY: Guilford Press. ISBN: 9781572304574.

Additional Materials for Learning

  1. Computer with basic audio/video output equipment
  2. Internet access (broadband recommended)
  3. Blackboard recommended browsers
  4. Microsoft Word
  5. APA formatting information

Course Assignments

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)

Course Grading

Course Requirements Checklist


Discussion Board Forums (3 at 50 pts ea.)


Quizzes (8 at 50 pts ea.)


Crisis Personnel Project


Part 1


Part 2


Research Paper


Title, Purpose, Outline, and References


Annotated Bibliography


Final Submission


Case Study







Late Assignment Policy

Course Assignments, including discussion boards, exams, and other graded assignments, should be submitted on time.

If the student is unable to complete an assignment on time, then he or she must contact the instructor immediately by email.

Assignments that are submitted after the due date without prior approval from the instructor will receive the following deductions:

  1. Late assignments submitted within one week after the due date will receive up to a 10% deduction.
  2. Assignments submitted more than one week and less than 2 weeks late will receive up to a 20% deduction.
  3. Assignments submitted two weeks late or after the final date of the course will not be accepted outside of special circumstances (e.g. death in the family, significant personal health issues), which will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the instructor.
  4. Group projects, including group discussion board threads and/or replies, and assignments will not be accepted after the due date outside of special circumstances (e.g. death in the family, significant personal health issues), which will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the instructor.

Disability Assistance

Students with a disability and those with medical conditions associated with pregnancy may contact Liberty University’s Online Office of Disability Accommodation Support (ODAS) at [email protected] for accommodations.  Such accommodations require appropriate documentation of your condition.   For more information about ODAS and the accommodations process, including how to request an accommodation, please visit Requests for accommodations not related to disabilities or pregnancy must be directed to the Registrar’s Office, which generally handles medical needs support.

If you have a complaint related to disability discrimination or an accommodation that was not provided, you may contact ODAS or the Office of Equity and Compliance by phone at (434) 592-4999 or by email at [email protected].  Click to see a full copy of Liberty’s Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Misconduct Policy or the Student Disability Grievance Policy and Procedures.

Course Attendance

In an effort to comply with U.S. Department of Education policies, attendance is measured by physical class attendance or any submission of a required assignment within the enrollment dates of the course (such as examinations, written papers or projects, any discussion board posts, etc.) or initiating any communication with one’s professor regarding an academic subject. More information regarding the attendance policy can be found in the Academic Course Catalogs. Regular attendance in online courses is expected throughout the length of the term. Students who do not attend within the first week of a sub-term by submitting a required academic assignment (such as the Course Requirements Checklist, an examination, written paper or project, discussion board post, or other academic activity) will be dropped from the course. Students who wish to re-engage in the course are encouraged to contact Academic Advising to discuss their enrollment options. Students who begin an online course, but at some point in the semester cease attending, and do not provide official notification to withdraw, will be assigned a grade of “FN” (Failure for Non-Attendance). Students wishing to withdraw from courses after the official start date should familiarize themselves with the withdrawal policy.

Grading Scale

900-1010 800-899 700-799 600-699 0-599

For courses with a Pass/NP final grade, please refer to the Course Grading section of this syllabus for the assignment requirements and/or point value required to earn a Passing final grade.

Add/Drop Policy

The full policy statement and procedures are published in the Policy Directory.

Honor Code

Liberty University comprises a network of students, Alumni, faculty, staff and supporters that together form a Christian community based upon the truth of the Bible. This truth defines our foundational principles, from our Doctrinal Statement to the Code of Honor. These principles irrevocably align Liberty University’s operational procedures with the long tradition of university culture, which remains distinctively Christian, designed to preserve and advance truth. Our desire is to create a safe, comfortable environment within our community of learning, and we extend our academic and spiritual resources to all of our students with the goal of fostering academic maturity, spiritual growth and character development.

Communities are predicated on shared values and goals. The Code of Honor, an expression of the values from which our Doctrinal Statement was born, defines the fundamental principles by which our community exists. At the core of this code lie two essential concepts: a belief in the significance of all individuals, and a reliance on the existence of objective truth.

While we acknowledge that some may disagree with various elements of the Code of Honor, we maintain the expectation that our students will commit to respect and uphold the Code while enrolled at Liberty University.

Adherence to the principles and concepts established within facilitates the success of our students and strengthens the Liberty community.

The Code of Honor can be viewed in its entirety at


CRIS 303

Textbooks: Freeman, Grief and Loss: Understanding the Journey (2005).

LUC: Dass-Brailsford, Crisis Counseling: Acute Stress, Grief and Trauma (2016).








Freeman: ch. 1

Dass-Brailsford: ch. 1

Course Requirements Checklist

Class Introductions

DB Forum 1

Crisis Personnel Project – Part 1

Quiz 1








Dass-Brailsford: ch. 2

Research Paper – Title, Purpose, Outline, References

Quiz 2





Freeman: chs. 2, 4

1 selected article

DB Forum 2

Quiz 3





Dass-Brailsford: chs. 3, 6–7, 10–11

Research Paper – Annotated Bibliography

Quiz 4





Freeman: chs. 5–6

Dass-Brailsford: ch. 4

Case Study

Quiz 5





Freeman: chs. 7, 9

Dass-Brailsford: ch. 12

DB Forum 3

Crisis Personnel Project – Part 2

Quiz 6






Freeman: ch. 10

Dass-Brailsford: chs. 5, 8

Research Paper – Final Submission

Quiz 7





Freeman: ch. 11

Dass-Brailsford: chs. 9, 13–14

Quiz 8




DB = Discussion Board



NOTE: Each course module/week (except Module/Week 1) begins on Tuesday morning at 12:00 a.m. (ET) and ends on Monday night at 11:59 p.m. (ET). The final module/week ends at 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Friday.