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Putting a new emotional recovery program to the test following disaster

A project promoting stress management and emotional recovery after disaster – the interPAR pilot trial (i.e., International program for Promoting Adjustment and Resilience) was conducted in the areas affected by the 2015 Pinery and Sampson Flat bushfires. The program teaches people skills to manage their stress and emotions to get back on track.


Recruitment for the trial has closed, and analysis has commenced.


What is the interPAR pilot trial?

This trial is testing the effectiveness of a new program designed to reduce stress, improve mood, and help people to resume activities following the bushfires in 2015. The program is based on learning a set of skills known to have worked with other people following stressful and traumatic events. These skills help people to deal with stress and strong emotions, feel more in control, and look after their relationships. If shown to be effective, the program will be rolled out in larger studies with communities affected by disaster across Australia and overseas.


What does interPAR involve?

The interPAR program involves people attending five weekly sessions with a trained interPAR Coach. Coaches usually have backgrounds in providing care and support following disaster (e.g., community nurses, senior volunteers, case managers). The interPAR coaches are supervised by registered psychologists with expertise in mental health and trauma recovery.


During the weekly sessions, participants learn skills for healthy living, managing strong emotions, coming to terms with the disaster, getting back to normal activities, and dealing with worry and negative thinking. In between sessions, people are encouraged to practise the skills they have learnt at home.

Why is the interPAR pilot trial important?

After a disaster of either natural or human origin, many survivors will have high levels of stress, anxiety, depression, grief, anger, and relationship difficulties. These issues will often become more obvious in the months following the disaster, after more immediate needs have been met. There is currently a gap in the scientific knowledge of what will help people recover emotionally after disaster – at a time when more and more communities in Australia and overseas are experiencing  disasters.


Promoting emotional recovery in the months following disaster may help to reduce distress and improve the quality of life of survivors, and prevent the development of more serious emotional difficulties down the track. The new program will allow communities, health services, and governments in Australia and around the world to access an evidence-based emotional recovery program at any time, and at no cost.


What are the benefits?

We are investigating if the people who took part in the interPAR pilot trial noticed improved mood, better sleep, and stronger relationships, were more physically active, and got back into activities that are important to them. We are also interested to see if the program prevents people from experiencing a worsening of emotional difficulties over time.


Who is involved in the interPAR pilot trial?

Phoenix Australia – Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health is coordinating the interPAR pilot trial, with the endorsement of The Prince’s Charities Australia and funding provided by the Commonwealth as represented by the Australian Government Department of Health. Partners in the pilot study include the Northern Health Network, Country SA Primary Health Network, and the Australian Red Cross.