Changes in Grief Counseling Techniques Since 9/11

It’s been nearly two decades since the horrific attacks in New York on 9/11 and to this day it continues to affect people around the world. Experts in the field of psychology have noted a dramatic shift in the area of grief counseling since that tragic day and long-term studies continue yielding results of just how the events of that day have affected communities and individuals alike.

The Blanket Response

In the hours immediately following the collapse of the twin towers, people were quick to help. Off-duty police, firefighters, medical personnel, even average citizens responded, eager to lend a helping hand. Psychologist and mental health professionals offering help to those at ground zero noted that most of the people they encountered exhibited extreme traumatization especially those who knew people in the towers. In cases where large portions of the population are exposed to a traumatic event, it’s important to know that most of the people affected do not have a history of mental instability. Many of them experience reasonable levels of anxiety under the given circumstances and would more than likely not experience prolonged PTSD. Psychologists must be careful not to project blanket expectations on everyone. Doing so would imply that the victims of a tragedy don’t have the internal ability to work through the problem on their own and increase their dependency on outside sources for emotional support.

Uneven Recovery

As with most traumatic events, the prevalence of PTSD gradually declines over the course of several years. It helps when victims of PTSD are able to return to a normal routine whether it’s work, volunteering, or family life. Among those who continued to experience PTSD and still suffer from it today are retired police and firefighters. Whether they retired as result of an injury incurred on that day or with natural age shortly after the event, the PTSD persisted largely in part because they now had more time on their hands. The victims express a general lack of meaning and fulfillment in their lives. Research has also revealed how socioeconomic status can impact a person’s recovery time. For example, a study of 9/11 survivors those who made less than $25,000 a year were more likely to have recurring PTSD. Once again, these results show that there is no blanket approach to grief counseling, despite the number of people affected by a singular event. Instead, more practitioners are turning to cognitive behavioral therapy to treat patients with depression and PTSD in the aftermath of a traumatic event.

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