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.