Psychological debriefing after disasters may do more harm than good.
Published on January 19, 2010
By Susan Pinker
Now that another huge humanitarian disaster is upon us, teachers, psychologists, counselors and social workers should be reminded that talking--and encouraging those who have suffered losses-- to talk and talk more--about their painful experiences is not the route to recovery. In fact, asking people to rehash terrifying events can be dangerous. Strong research evidence shows that psychological debriefing not only is ineffective, it can exacerbate trauma.
"People who received psychological debriefing exhibited more severe symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder than controls; the intervention increased the risk of the stress disorder, and critical incident stress debriefing, in particular, was potentially harmful,"write Magdalena Szumilas, Yifeng Wei, and Stan Kutcher in an analysis of the research on psychological debriefing just published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal…