Postdisaster psychosocial intervention: a field study of the impact of debriefing on psychological distress

Am J Psychiatry. 1997 Mar;154(3):415-7. doi: 10.1176/ajp.154.3.415.


Objective: Following a catastrophic natural disaster, the authors evaluated whether brief psychological intervention (debriefing 6 months later) reduced disaster-related psychological distress as measured by the Impact of Event Scale.

Method: Two groups of subjects who had been exposed to Hurricane Iniki in Hawaii were assessed before and after participating in a multihour debriefing group. The intervention aimed to provide ventilation of feelings, normalization of responses, and education about normal psychological reactions to the disaster in a context of group support. To provide a partial control for the passage of time, the pretreatment assessment of the second group was concurrent with the posttreatment assessment of the first group.

Results: A repeated measures analysis of variance indicated that Impact of Event Scale scores were reduced in both groups after the treatment.

Conclusions: There is preliminary empirical support for the effectiveness of postdisaster psychological intervention and for the feasibility of treatment research in postdisaster environments.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Crisis Intervention* / methods
  • Disaster Planning
  • Disasters*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Hawaii
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / prevention & control
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy