Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice

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Volume 73 Issue 1 (March 2000), Pages 1-142

The influence of occupational debriefing on post‐traumatic stress symptomatology in traumatized police officers (pages 87-98)

Certain individuals, such as police officers, are exposed to traumatic events as part of their occupational roles. In an effort to prevent psychological illnesses, notably the post‐traumatic stress disorder, from arising out of work‐related traumatic incidents, psychological interventions have been developed such as Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (Mitchell, 1983; Mitchell & Everly, 1996). The present study tests the hypothesis that debriefing reduces the psychological morbidity caused by work‐related incidents. Because debriefing techniques were not designed for application on a ‘one‐off’ basis (Robinson & Mitchell, 1993), the procedure studied here consisted of three successive debriefing sessions (at 24 hours, 1 month and 3 months post‐trauma), which included traumatic stress education. In a sample of 243 traumatized police officers, a subgroup of debriefed officers (N = 86) was compared with non‐debriefed internal (N = 82) and external (N = 75) control groups. No differences in psychological morbidity were found between the groups at pre‐test, at 24 hours or at 6 months post‐trauma. One week post‐trauma, debriefed subjects exhibited significantly more post‐traumatic stress disorder symptomatology than non‐debriefed subjects. High levels of satisfaction with debriefing were not reflected in positive outcomes. The findings are translated into recommendations for the future use of debriefing in police practice.

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