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Prehosp Disaster Med. 2008 Sep-Oct;23(5):397-410.

Cognitive-behavioral psychology: implications for disaster and terrorism response.

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National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Veterans Administration Palo Alto Health Care System, Menlo Park, California 94025, USA.


Given the personal and societal costs associated with acute impairment and enduring post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the mental health response to disasters is an integral component of disaster response planning. The purpose of this paper is to explore the compatibility between cognitive-behavioral psychology and the disaster mental health model, and explicate how cognitive-behavioral perspectives and intervention methods can enhance the effectiveness of disaster mental health services. It is argued that cognitive-behavioral methods, if matched to the contexts of the disaster and the needs of individuals, will improve efforts to prevent the development of PTSD and other trauma-related problems in survivors of disaster or terrorist events. First, the similarities between models of care underlying both disaster mental health services and cognitive-behavioral therapies are described. Second, examples of prior cognitive-behavioral therapy-informed work with persons exposed to disaster and terrorism are provided, potential cognitive-behavioral therapy applications to disaster and terrorism are explored, and implications of cognitive-behavioral therapy for common challenges in disaster mental health is discussed. Finally, steps that can be taken to integrate cognitive-behavioral therapy into disaster mental health are outlined. The aim is to prompt disaster mental health agencies and workers to consider using cognitive-behavioral therapy to improve services and training, and to motivate cognitive-behavioral researchers and practitioners to develop and support disaster mental health response.

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