Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Postdisaster Distress: A Promising Transdiagnostic Approach to Treating Disaster Survivors

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Abstract

Objective: Cognitive-behavioral therapy for postdisaster distress (CBT-PD) is a transdiagnostic intervention that has been used following major disasters such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina. In this study, we report findings from a community-based treatment program that offered CBT-PD to individuals who experienced Hurricane Sandy. Method: Eight trained community therapists delivered CBT-PD to 342 adults who had been exposed to Hurricane Sandy. Participants were assessed at referral, pretreatment, intermediate treatment, posttreatment and 5-month follow-up. Results: The overall prepost effect size was 1.41, indicating large improvement pre to posttreatment. Gains were maintained at follow-up. Timing of the intervention did not affect outcome. Participants who received the intervention early (i.e., 10 to 15 months after Sandy) had the same improvement as those who received it later (i.e., 21 to 26 months after Sandy). Similarly, there was no difference in outcome between individuals with severe as compared with moderate distress at pretreatment. Conclusions: Results suggest that CBT-PD is appropriate for a range of individuals with moderate to severe distress and that it has benefit both early on as well as two years postdisaster. Findings add to growing literature that CBT-PD should be considered as one important component of a larger disaster response system.

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