Psychological debriefing is a waste of time

People who experience serious traumatic events may become distressed and are at risk of developing psychological illness. Because of the perceived need to ease the distress and to prevent chronicity, various forms of psychological therapy have been deployed. One such therapy is psycho- logical debriefing. Some claim that it is helpful, others claim it may not do any good but at least it does no harm, but still others claim that it increases the risk of people developing long-term psychological symptoms following a traumatic event. Statutory agencies, charities and commer- cial organisations offer their services to victims following traumatic events. Fearing litigation, some companies require their employees to undergo debriefing following certain incidents. But is psychological debriefing the right treatment? Is it cost- effective? And what of the concerns that it may lead to long-term problems? Could litigation be joined because of exposure to psychological debriefing? We asked two experts who have published widely on the subject – Professor Simon Wessely and Professor Martin Deahl – to debate the proposition that psychological debriefing is a waste of time.

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