Critical incident debriefing is not a recommended therapy

March 6, 2023

Critical incident debriefing (or simply debriefing) typically involves a single-session intervention where participants describe their experiences very soon after witnessing or being a victim of a traumatic event and then discuss strategies for coping. While debriefing was initially designed for adults, its use with children has increased. However, the limited number of studies conducted on debriefing with children found limited or no benefit.

As well, cautions about debriefing have also emerged from adult studies. This includes some studies finding adverse events, such as increased long-term distress. Given almost no evidence of benefits, coupled with the potential for harm, debriefing should not be used with children unless better studies emerge showing positive results.  For more information, see Vol. 15, No. 1 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.