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Keywords:

  • early intervention for trauma;
  • psychological debriefing;
  • secondary prevention of PTSD

Although psychological debriefing (PD) represents the most common form of early intervention for recently traumatized people, there is little evidence supporting its continued use with individuals who experience severe trauma. This review identifies the core issues in early intervention that need to be addressed in resolving the debate over PD. It critiques the available evidence for PD and the early provision of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Based on available evidence, we propose that psychological first aid is an appropriate initial intervention, but that it does not serve a therapeutic or preventive function. When feasible, initial screening is required so that preventive interventions can be used for those individuals who may have difficulty recovering on their own. Evidence-based CBT approaches are indicated for people who are at risk of developing posttraumatic psychopathology. Guidelines for managing acutely traumatized people are suggested and standards are proposed to direct future research that may advance our understanding of the role of early intervention in facilitating adaptation to trauma.