Outcome of psychotherapy among early adolescents after trauma

Am J Psychiatry. 1997 Apr;154(4):536-42. doi: 10.1176/ajp.154.4.536.


Objective: The authors evaluated the effectiveness of brief trauma/grief-focused psychotherapy among early adolescents exposed to the 1988 earthquake in Armenia.

Method: Posttraumatic stress and depressive reactions among treated and not treated subjects were evaluated pre- and postintervention, at 1 1/2 and 3 years after the earthquake, respectively.

Results: Severity of posttraumatic stress symptoms significantly decreased among the subjects given psychotherapy, while severity of these symptoms increased significantly among the subjects not treated with psychotherapy. The improvement in posttraumatic stress symptoms was attributable to improvement in all three symptom categories (intrusion, avoidance, and arousal) of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There was no change in severity of depressive symptoms among subjects given psychotherapy. However, depressive symptoms among subjects not treated with psychotherapy significantly worsened over time. The changes in severity of posttraumatic stress and depressive symptoms were positively correlated within both groups.

Conclusions: The findings demonstrate the efficacy of trauma/grief-focused brief psychotherapy in alleviating PTSD symptoms and preventing the worsening of comorbid depression among early adolescents after a catastrophic disaster. The results support the broad use of such school-based interventions after major disasters and demonstrate the cross-cultural applicability of Western psychotherapeutic approaches.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Armenia
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy*
  • Disasters*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personality Inventory
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychotherapy*
  • Psychotherapy, Brief
  • Psychotherapy, Group
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*
  • Students / psychology
  • Treatment Outcome