How might treatment differ for Michelle, Ben, and the other two children taken hostage?

A Family Hostage Situation

Martin is a 38-year-old construction worker who has been married four times and has four children. He has one child (Pat, aged 20 years) with his first wife, and three boys (Ben, aged 10 years; Todd, aged 6 years; and Sig, aged 4 years) with his current wife, Michelle. Within the past 3 weeks, Martin broke his wrist while working, he lost his job because of his anger outbursts and his pushing one of his coworkers after an argument, and he was notified that he needs to pay $22,000 in back taxes to the Internal Revenue Service. Earlier today, Michelle told him that she was leaving him and that she was taking the children with her. During this conversation, the police were called because neighbors were concerned about the yelling they heard. When the police arrived, Martin did not answer the door and told the police that he had a gun and “no one is coming out unless they are in a body bag.”

Martin kept Michelle and her three children at gunpoint for 3½ hours. During this time, he yelled, talked as if he was on a rant, cried uncontrollably, put his gun to Michelle’s head and threatened to pull the trigger, and slapped Michelle and Ben in the face. After talking to a police negotiator on and off for over 2 hours, Martin shot himself in the head in front of Michelle and his children.

When the police and the hostage negotiator entered the house, they found Michelle holding her husband’s hand, while he lay dead on the floor. Two of her children were sitting on the couch, still afraid to move, while Ben ran out the door into the hands of the police. Michelle and her children spent the next 4 hours debriefing with the hostage negotiator and other support staff. Later, Michelle saw a counselor twice a week for 8 months, then once a week for 4 months, and then once a month thereafter.

Discussion Questions

1. Overall, what do you think Michelle experienced during this situation? What about her children?

2. How do you think Michelle and the children experienced each stage of the hostage situation as described above?

3. What would be some of the emotions, behaviors, and thoughts felt by this family immediately after the hostage situation ended?

4. How should Martin’s son Pat (from his first marriage) be informed of this situation? What should be said?

5. What would be the crisis counselor’s initial treatment goals with Michelle and her children?

6. How might treatment differ for Michelle, Ben, and the other two children taken hostage?

7. What do you think was the reason Michelle was able to decrease treatment over time?

8. With a peer, role-play implementation of the task model of crisis assessment and intervention presented in Table 1.1.

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