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Admission to a critical care unit often causes a great deal of distress and anguish, not only for the patient but also his or her family If one believes in the holistic approach to care, then it is essenhal that the critical care nurse is able to identify the specific needs of family members, and demonstrate appropriate intervention techniques with those in need of support It is suggested that crisis theory can provide an effective tripartite framework on which to base such nursing care Following a brief description of its development and basic principles, application of its approach will be demonstrated in relation to the specific needs and concerns which have been identified from responses of family members themselves Suggestions are offered which may assist the nurse in further developing basic communication skills which can assist the intervention process at this difficult time Awareness of such principles is of value to all workers in critical care areas