Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD): Efficacy in Question

  • Katherine Barboza


When a person experiences a traumatic event, s/he may have a strong emotional reaction. This reaction may disrupt the person's ability to function at the scene of the incident or later, and may range from a normal stress response to the symptoms indicative of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Psychological debriefing is an immediate intervention used following a traumatic experience that purportedly helps individuals manage their normal stress reactions to the incident. Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) was designed for workers in high-risk occupations, such as police officers, disaster workers, and firefighters. Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) is a multi-component intervention system that incorporates CISD. The use of this intervention has been expanded to individuals, groups, and communities. While this intervention has been used extensively following traumatic events, its efficacy is under much debate. Currently, there is a controversy regarding the issue of whether it helps with initial distress and if it does, in fact, prevent post-traumatic symptoms. This review is limited to studies assessing emergency response workers, as critical incident stress debriefing and management was originally designed for this population.


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