The purpose of this paper is to provide a summary of evidence for the effectiveness and safety of commonly used crisis interventions in schools, such as critical incident stress debriefing (CISD), critical incident stress management (CISM), and psychological debriefing (PD). Two researchers independently searched relevant databases for reviews and meta-analyses in English language peer-reviewed journals using identified keywords. The database search was supplemented by hand searches of the reference lists of database-identified reviews. Selected reviews were compared and analyzed for the effectiveness of CISD/CISM/PD interventions. Research findings suggest that these interventions are ineffective and may be harmful. Evidence of effectiveness of CISD/CISM/PD interventions in schools is very limited. Given evidence of ineffectiveness and potential harm of CISD/CISM/PD interventions in adults and limited evidence of these interventions in schools, there is no compelling reason to implement CISD/CISM/PD following crisis events in schools.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Alberta Learning: Special Education Branch. (1999). Supporting safe, secure and caring schools in Alberta. Edmonton: Alberta Learning.
Brewin, C. R. (2001). Cognitive and emotional reactions to traumatic events: Implications for short-term intervention. Advances in Mind-Body Medicine, 17(3), 163–168. doi:10.1054/ambm.2000.0308.
British Columbia Ministry of Education. (1998). Responding to critical incidents: A resource guide for schools. Victoria: British Columbia Ministry of Education.
Chemtob, C. M., Tomas, S., Law, W., & Cremniter, D. (1997). Postdisaster psychosocial intervention: A field study of the impact of debriefing on psychological distress. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 154(3), 415–417.
Cuijpers, P., Van Straten, A., & Smit, F. (2005). Preventing the incidence of new cases of mental disorders: A meta-analytic review. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 193(2), 119–125.
Deahl, M. P., Gillham, A. B., Thomas, J., Searle, M. M., & Srinivasan, M. (1994). Psychological sequelae following the gulf war. factors associated with subsequent morbidity and the effectiveness of psychological debriefing. The British Journal of Psychiatry: The Journal of Mental Science, 165(2), 60–65.
Devilly, G. J., & Cotton, P. (2003). Psychological debriefing and the workplace: Defining a concept, controversies and guidelines for intervention. Australian Psychologist, 38(2), 144–150.
Edmonton CISM Conference Committee (2009). CISM conference educational sessions: Responding to the school crisis: A CISM perspective. Accessed on Aug 21, 2009. Accessed from http://www.cism2009.com/sessions
Everly, G. S., Jr., & Mitchell, J. T. (1997). Critical incident stress management (CISM): A new era and standard of care in crisis intervention. Ellicott City: Chevron.
Everly, G. S., Jr., & Mitchell, J. T. (1999). Critical incident stress management (CISM): A new era and standard of care in crisis intervention (2nd ed.). Ellicott City, MD: Chevron Publishing.
Everly, G. S., Jr., & Boyle, S. H. (1999). Critical incident stress debriefing (CISD): A meta-analysis. International Journal of Emergency Mental Health, 1(3), 165–168.
Everly, G. S., Jr, & Mitchell, J. T. (Unknown). A primer on critical incident stress management (CISM). Accessed on Jan 07, 2009. Accessed from http://www.icisf.org/inew_era.htm
Everly, G. S., Boyle, S. H., & Lating, J. M. (1999). The effectiveness of psychological debriefing with vicarious trauma: A meta-analysis. Stress Medicine, 15(4), 229–233.
Everly, G. S. J., Flannery, R. B. J., & Mitchell, J. T. (2000). Critical incident stress management (CISM): A review of the literature. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 5(1), 23–40.
Everly, G. S., Jr., Flannery, R. B., Jr., & Eyler, V. A. (2002). Critical incident stress management (CISM): A statistical review of the literature. The Psychiatric Quarterly, 73(3), 171–182.
Hobfoll, S. E., Watson, P., Bell, C. C., Bryant, R. A., Brymer, M. J., Friedman, M. J., et al. (2007). Five essential elements of immediate and mid-term mass trauma intervention: Empirical evidence. Psychiatry, 70(4), 283–315. discussion 316-69.
Hytten, K., & Hasle, A. (1989). Fire fighters: A study of stress and coping. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. Supplementum, 355, 50–55.
Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC). (2007). IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support on Emergency Settings. Geneva: IASC.
Kenardy, J. A., Webster, R. A., Lewin, T. J., Carr, V. J., Hazell, P. L., & Carter, G. L. (1996). Stress debriefing and patterns of recovery following a natural disaster. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 9(1), 37–49.
Lilienfeld, S. O. (2007). Psychological treatments that cause harm. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2(1), 53–70.
Litz, B. T. (2008). Early intervention for trauma: Where are we and where do we need to go? A commentary. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 21(6), 503–506.
Litz, B. T., Gray, M. J., Bryant, R. A., & Adler, A. B. (2002). Early intervention for trauma: Current status and future directions. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 9(2), 112–134.
McNally, R. J., Bryant, R. A., & Ehlers, A. (2003). Does early psychological intervention promote recovery from posttraumatic stress? Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 4(2), 45–79.
Mitchell, J. T. (1983). When disaster strikes....The Critical Incident Stress Debriefing process. Journal of Emergency Medical Services, 8, 36–39.
Ngo, V., Langley, A., Kataoka, S., Nadeem, E., Escudero, P., & Stein, B.S. (2008). Providing evidence based practice to ethnically diverse youth: Examples from the Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) program. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 47(8), 858–862.
Pynoos, R. S., & Nader, K. (1988). Psychological first aid and treatment approach to children exposed to community violence: Research implications. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 1(4), 445–473.
Raphael, B., Wilson, J., Meldrum, L., & McFarlane, A. C. (1996). Acute preventative interventions. In B. A. Van der Kolk, A. C. McFarlane, & L. Weisæth (Eds.), Traumatic stress: The effects of overwhelming experience on mind, body, and society (pp. 463–479). New York: Guilford Press.
Roberts, N. P., Kitchiner, N. J., Kenardy, J., & Bisson, J. (2009). Multiple session early psychological interventions for the prevention of post-traumatic stress disorder. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (Online), (3)(3).
Rose, S., Brewin, C. R., Andrews, B., & Kirk, M. (1999). A randomized controlled trial of individual psychological debriefing for victims of violent crime. Psychological Medicine, 29, 793–799.
Rose, S., Bisson, J., Churchill, R., & Wessely, S. (2002). Psychological debriefing for preventing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (Online), (2)(2).
Ruzek, J. I., Brymer, M. J., Jacobes, A. K., Layne, C. M., Vernberg, E. M., & Watson, P. J. (2007). Psychological first aid. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 29(1), 71–49.
Saskatchewan Learning. (2004). Caring and respectful schools: Toward school plus: Ensuring student well-being and educational success. Saskatoon: Saskatchewan Learning.
Stallard, P., & Salter, E. (2003). Psychological debriefing with children and young people following traumatic events. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 8(4), 445–457.
Stallard, P., Velleman, R., Salter, E., Howse, I., Yule, W., & Taylor, G. (2006). A randomised controlled trial to determine the effectiveness of an early psychological intervention with children involved in road traffic accidents. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines, 47(2), 127–134.
Uhernik, J. A., & Husson, M. A. (2009). Psychological first aid: An evidence informed approach for acute disaster behavioral health response. In G. R. Walz, J. C. Bleuer, & R. K. Yep (Eds.), Compelling counseling interventions: VISTAS 2009 (Alexandria, VA ed., pp. 271-280) American Counseling Association.
van Emmerik, A. A., Kamphuis, J. H., Hulsbosch, A. M., & Emmelkamp, P. M. (2002). Single session debriefing after psychological trauma: A meta-analysis. Lancet, 360(9335), 766–771.
Wethington, H. R., Hahn, R. A., Fuqua-Whitley, D. S., Sipe, T. A., Crosby, A. E., Johnson, R. L., et al. (2008). The effectiveness of interventions to reduce psychological harm from traumatic events among children and adolescents: A systematic review. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 35(3), 287–313.
The authors would like to acknowledge Alan McLuckie for his contribution to the manuscript.
About this article
Cite this article
Wei, Y., Szumilas, M. & Kutcher, S. Effectiveness on Mental Health of Psychological Debriefing for Crisis Intervention in Schools. Educ Psychol Rev 22, 339–347 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-010-9139-2
- Critical incident stress debriefing (CISD)
- Critical incident stress management (CISM)
- Psychological debriefing
- Crisis intervention