Psychological debriefing for preventing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Research article
Rose, S. C., Bisson, J., Churchill, R., & Wessely, S. (2009). Psychological debriefing for preventing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). (Intervention Review) (Publication no. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000560.). Retrieved July, 2013, from John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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Summary / Abstract: 

Notes: This is a different take on deception - i.e. that deceptive practices can be used inadvertently and by the practitioners not only by subjects. And that inertia based on anecdotal evidence can sometimes take you only so far. This needs further investigation. I am not enamoured by it - in my experience some of the established approaches to treat PTSD work surprisingly well. 

Summary: Over approximately the last fifteen years, early psychological interventions, such as psychological ’debriefing’, have been increasingly used following psychological trauma. Whilst this intervention has become popular and its use has spread to several settings, empirical evidence for its efficacy is noticeably lacking. This is the third update of a review of single session psychological “debriefing”, first having been undertaken in 1997.

Objectives: To assess the effectiveness of brief psychological debriefing for the management of psychological distress after trauma, andthe prevention of post traumatic stress disorder.

Search strategy: Electronic searching of MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsychLit, PILOTS, Biosis, Pascal, Occ.Safety and Health,SOCIOFILE, CINAHL, PSYCINFO, PSYNDEX, SIGLE, LILACS, CCTR, CINAHL, NRR, Hand search of Journal of Traumatic Stress. Contact with leading researchers.

Selection criteria: The focus of RCTs was on persons recently (one month or less) exposed to a traumatic event. The intervention consisted of a single session only, and involved some form of emotional processing/ventilation, by encouraging recollection/reworking of the traumatic event, accompanied by normalisation of emotional reaction to the event.

Data collection and analysis: 15 trials fulfilled the inclusion criteria. Methodological quality was variable, but the majority of trials scored poorly. Data from 6 trials could not be included the meta-analyses. These trials are summarised in the text.

Psychological debriefing for preventing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Review) 1

Single session individual debriefing did not prevent the onset of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) nor reduce psychological distress, compared to control. At one year, one trial reported a significantly increased risk of PTSD in those receiving debriefing (OR 2.51 (95% CI 1.24 to 5.09). Those receiving the intervention reported no reduction in PTSD severity at 1-4 months (SMD 0.11 (95%CI 0.10 to 0.32)), 6-13 months (SMD 0.26 (95%CI 0.01 to 0.50)), or 3 years (SMD 0.17 (95%CI -0.34 to 0.67)). There was also no evidence that debriefing reduced general psychological morbidity, depression or anxiety, or that it was superior to an educational intervention.

Authors’ conclusions: There is no evidence that single session individual psychological debriefing is a useful treatment for the prevention of post traumatic stress disorder after traumatic incidents. Compulsory debriefing of victims of trauma should cease. A more appropriate response could involve a ’screen and treat’ model (NICE 2005).