First responders are a critical component to the mental and physical recovery of victims of terrorist attacks. But research has shown that some mental health responders are less than willing to treat the traumatic emotional needs of these victims. “There has been more concern about how individuals can physically survive a major terrorist attack than on psychological survival,” said David F. Ciampi, of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, School of Psychology, Walden University, and author of a new study. “The psychosocial effects that might occur following a major terrorist attack can be significant, so disaster preparedness planning must take into account plans to minimize such effects.”
To evaluate what factors may impair willingness to treat these victims, Ciampi surveyed 255 mental health caregivers from universities, hospitals, community clinics and practices from nine different major cities in the United States. The participants included doctoral-level psychologists, master’s-level psychologists, licensed psychiatrist, licensed mental health counselors and psychiatric nurses. Based on questions relating to anticipated threats and risk evaluation, the study revealed that when the clinicians’ anxiety level increased, their willingness to treat victims decreased. Over 50 percent of respondents reported unwillingness to provide treatment post-disaster, even though nearly one fifth held certifications for just such type of care. “This result did support the presupposition stated by researchers that a common emotional response to terrorism, as with any life-threatening and dangerous situation, is flight,” said Ciampi. “Anxiety, as an affective state, was associated with the derogation of mental health counselors’ motivation and decision making abilities.” Ciampi also discovered that the mental health professionals with the highest levels of religious faith were more willing to treat victims of terrorist attacks, regardless of their anxiety levels. Because of the critical need for this type of treatment, Ciampi hopes his findings aid mental help professionals. He concluded, “The results of this study suggest to me that more needs to be done to help therapists deal with the potential effects of traumatic incidents.”
Ciampi, D. F. (2011, June 27). Anticipated Attitudes for Providing Psychological Services to Survivors of Major Terrorist Incidents. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0024475
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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