Last decade’s experience has proven the long term benefits of adequate psychological support to field staff by the organizations themselves, limiting the disastrous consequences of critical incidents on their long term mental health. This implies not only competent stress and crisis management in the field, but also a preventive and pro-active strategy on the part of an organization to foster resilience at all levels, before, during and after missions. It can bring an NGO to create and develop an in-house coherent support program to reduce overall psychosocial risks.

The organization’s responsibility

An NGO is indeed responsible for recruiting resilient staff, training them before departure in the management of potential psychosocial risks, as well as training field managers to know how to manage multicultural teams and deal with security incidents. It is also essential for the Headquarters to know how to support field staff during tough times and after serious incidents; and upon return, to give an expatriate a thorough psychological debriefing, to detect the potential traumatic consequences of his or her mission. Each of these steps is essential to building a coherent humanitarian HR policy.

The aid worker’s responsibility

However, an organization, no matter its good intentions in supporting their field staff, cannot substitute itself for the aid worker, who has made the choice to work in such highly stressful environment. Field work implies a personal commitment to maintaining one’s own balance, despite the security risks and challenges of an emergency context.

At times though, an aid worker may feel overwhelmed by the mission and/or by various risk factors, even causing sometimes a “burnout” or traumatic reactions, which can become unmanageable. However, an organization, being both judge and jury towards its staff, cannot always support them. At times, it should be able to outsource the kind of specialized and professional support their employees need when in predicament.

CHP’s support services

  • The CHP has created a generic in-house Peer Support Program for humanitarian agencies, customizable to their specific mission, needs and HR policies. Our staff is available at each step, to support the creation and implementation of this program, at headquarters and in the field. Write to or call: +41 22 800 21 15 for more information on this program.
  • CHP offers a hotline, responding usually within 48 hours, in all confidentiality, with a team of licensed psychologists and counselors who have worked in humanitarian emergencies. This service is free of charge for 2 sessions of 50mn.
  • If an aid worker needs further support, our responding team offers online counseling for any number of sessions, with a fee. We work with the utmost discretion and respect the rule of confidentiality, as well as the standards of our profession.

We can work both in French and English.


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Headquarters in Switzerland

CHP – Centre for Humanitarian Psychology
15, rue des Savoises
CH-1205 Genève