Brief treatment for elementary school children with disaster-related posttraumatic stress disorder: A field study



Effective psychological intervention is needed to help children recover from disaster-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This controlled study evaluated the effectiveness of a brief intervention for disaster-related PTSD. At one-year follow-up of a prior intervention for disaster-related symptoms, some previously treated children were still suffering significant trauma symptoms. Using a randomized lagged-groups design, we provided three sessions of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) treatment to 32 of these children who met clinical criteria for PTSD. The Children's Reaction Inventory (CRI) was the primary measure of the treatment's effect on PTSD symptoms. Associated symptoms were measured using the Revised Children's Manifest Anxiety Scale (RCMAS) and the Children's Depression Inventory (CDI). Treatment resulted in substantial reductions in both groups' CRI scores and in significant, though more modest, reduc- tions in RCMAS and CDI scores. Gains were maintained at six-month follow-up. Health visits to the school nurse were significantly reduced following treatment. Psychosocial intervention appears useful for children suffering disaster-related PTSD. Conducting controlled studies of children's treatment in the postdisaster environment appears feasible. © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. J Clin Psychol 58: 99–112, 2002.