Study: It s not always good to talk
Press Association - June 25, 2003

Britain's touchy-feely society may think it's good to talk - but new research suggests discussing traumatic events can worsen stress and hinder recovery.

Researchers found that counselling routinely offered to people in the immediate aftermath of disaster seldom protected them from developing post-traumatic stress.

Psychologist Simon Wessely, of King's College, London told the New Scientist: "We have an ideology that it's 'good to talk'. But sometimes that's not so."

Researchers were analysing "single session" debriefings, where a counsellor talks to a victim to help them prepare for any psychological problems they might encounter.

The team found this process could actually worsen stress for those who might have recovered simply by talking with family and friends or by blocking out the events until they felt ready.

Mr Wessely was joined by Jon Bisson, of the University of Wales, Cardiff, and Suzanna Rose, of the National Health Service's West Berkshire Traumatic Stress Service, based in Reading.

They analysed 11 briefings, which all took place after people had suffered trauma including fires, car accidents, assaults and dog bites.

Three studies found the counselling was of benefit, six concluded that it had made no difference and two found that the counselling had hindered recovery.

Mr Wessely said he believed the sessions primed people to expect to suffer post-traumatic stress.

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Last updated: 07/01/2003 - 08:13 PM