Critical incident stress management is rooted in crisis intervention theory, group therapy, and community psychology. Theorists like Eric Lindemann, Irvin Yalom, and Gerald Caplan provided the foundation for CISM developers Jeffrey T. Mitchell and George S. Everly, Jr. to begin their work in the 1970s. During the 1980s, Mitchell and Everly officially introduced critical incident stress debriefing as part of their critical incident stress management system of crisis intervention.
The field expanded further with the establishment of the American Critical Incident Stress Foundation in 1989, later named the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation in 1991. In 1997, Mitchell and Everly fully integrated their crisis intervention techniques into the comprehensive system we call CISM.