The mental health community was caught unaware after 9/11 with respect to treatment of survivors of terrorist attacks. Because this form of trauma was quite rare in the U.S., few trauma specialists had extensive experience, or taught regularly on this subject. Since the primary objective of terrorism is the creation of demoralization, fear, and uncertainty in the general population, a focus on mental health from therapeutic and public health perspectives is critically important to successful resolution of the crisis. Surveys after 9/11 showed unequivocally that symptomatology related to the attacks were found in hundreds of thousands of people, most of whom were not escapees or the families of the deceased. Soon after 9/11, our center formed a collaboration with other academic sites in Manhattan to rapidly increase capacity for providing state-of-the-art training and treatment for trauma-related psychiatric problems. Our experience suggests that evidence-based treatments such as Prolonged Exposure Therapy have proven successful in treating 9/11-related PTSD. However, special clinical issues have arisen, such as the influence of culture on clinical presentation and treatment expectations in a multiethnic community; the need to focus on more subtle aspects of relative risk appraisal in examining trauma-related avoidance; the range of changes in daily life that constitute adaptation to ongoing threat; the difficulties in working as a therapist who is also a member of the traumatized community; and grappling with multiple secondary consequences of 9/11 such as unemployment, work relocation, grief, and apocalyptic fears leading to a dramatically foreshortened vision of the future.
Psychiatric Quarterly – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 28, 2004
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