Evaluating psychological debriefing: Are we measuring the right outcomes?



The efficacy of critical incident stress debriefing (CISD) and psychological debriefing (PD) following potentially traumatising events has recently been challenged after a number of recent randomised controlled trials (RCTs) failed to demonstrate that CISD or PD prevents or reduces the incidence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These studies have used measures of PTSD as the principal outcome and have generally not measured comorbid psychopathology, behavioral or social dysfunction. In a recent RCT of group debriefing amongst British soldiers returning from peacekeeping operations in Bosnia, PD had a significant effect in reducing a worrying level of alcohol misuse in the sample. The findings of this study suggest that that it is premature to conclude that debriefing is ineffective and that a broader range of outcome measures should be employed in future trials of debriefing.