Psychological Medicine

A randomized controlled trial of individual psychological debriefing for victims of violent crime

S. ROSE a1c1, C. R. BREWIN a1, B. ANDREWS a1 and M. KIRK a1
a1 From the Cognition, Emotion and Trauma Group, Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey


Background. It has been suggested that giving people the opportunity talk about a traumatic experience may prevent the development of later disorder. We tested the efficacy of two brief interventions, education and psychological debriefing, designed to prevent adverse psychological reactions to criminal victimization.

Methods. Individuals who had been the victims of a violent crime within the past month were written to and invited to take part in a study of their attitudes to crime and punishment: 2161 were contacted and 243 replied, of whom 157 were eligible and were randomly assigned either to an education condition, to a psychological debriefing plus education condition, or to an assessment only condition. Education involved providing information about normal post-traumatic reactions. Debriefing involved in-depth probing about events, thoughts and feelings experienced during the crime. Subjects were recruited from police and hospital sources and interviewed in their own homes: 138 were followed up at 6 months, and 92 at 11 months.

Results. Outcome was assessed using a DSM-III-R diagnosis of PTSD, the Post-traumatic Symptom Scale, the Impact of Event Scale and the Beck Depression Inventory. All groups improved over time but there were no between-group differences.

Conclusions. No evidence was found to support the efficacy of brief one-session interventions for preventing post-traumatic symptoms in individual victims of violent crime.

c1 Address for correspondence: Ms Suzanna Rose, Cognition, Emotion and Trauma Group, Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX.