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Mind: Intelligent management of post-disaster trauma: Forget the weepy-weepy

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From Mind Hacks, we learn about one useful development in the waste heap of current psychology: Abandoning “just talk about your feelings” as a guide to post-trauma functioning:

at the time of the Twin Towers disaster, the standard form of treatment was Critical Incident Stress Debriefing – also known as CISD or just ‘debriefing’ – a technique where psychologists would ask survivors, usually in groups, to describe what happened and ‘process’ all the associated emotions by talking about them.

This technique is now not recommended because we know it is at best useless and probably harmful – owing to the fact that it seems to increase trauma in the long-term.

The technique would doubtless help some, but generalized would be an obvious disaster, and any layperson who has ever worked in a mixed group of people can spot the problem:

Not everyone benefits by talking about a disaster. Consider Jane, a back office staffer in a business where a counter employee was shot by an insane, aggrieved customer. She grows more anxious every time she hears about it, even though she is not remotely at risk. Asking her to talk about her feelings means asking her to freak out more – until it becomes a full time obsession, and she quits her (safe) job.

Then there’s Beverly, a total tech who is mainly concerned whether the information system was invaded (it wasn’t). She doesn’t understand why people are asking her for her opinion about the death of a woman she never noticed.

It was high time for a more intelligent approach to disaster management.

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Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose

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