Researchers from Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust in Wales, UK, explored the impact of various interventions when they are delivered within 3 months of the traumatic event.

The study identified 25 randomized, controlled trials of multiple-session psychological treatments aimed at preventing or reducing traumatic stress symptoms in individuals within 3 months of exposure to a traumatic event.  The studies examined a range of interventions. 

For treatment of individuals exposed to a trauma, irrespective of their symptoms, there was no significant difference between any intervention and usual care.  For treatment of traumatic stress symptoms, irrespective of diagnosis, trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) was more effective than wait list or supportive counseling conditions.  The difference was greatest for treatment of acute stress disorder and acute posttraumatic stress disorder.

The study concludes that Trauma-focused CBT within 3 months of a traumatic event appears to be effective for individuals with traumatic stress symptoms, and especially those who meet the threshold for a clinical diagnosis.

Citation:  Roberts NP, Kitchiner NJ, Kenardy J, Bisson JI.  Systematic review and meta-analysis of multiple-session early interventions following traumatic events. American Journal of Psychiatry. 2009 Mar; 166 (3): pages 293-301. Epub 2009 Feb 2