First aid for emotional trauma

When and how must we act to prevent lasting damage?

A great deal is known about first aid for physical wounds but much less — despite advances since the mid-1980s — about how to prevent the injuries that come from memories of traumatic experience. One popular method, critical incident stress debriefing, may be ineffective or worse. Cognitive behavioral therapy shows some promise, and there are experimental drugs that raise difficult questions. It is fortunate that, in the end, most people can cope with traumatic experiences if left to their own devices.

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