OBJECTIVE: The purpose of the present study was to determine if interpersonal counselling (IPC) was effective in reducing psychological morbidity after major physical trauma. METHODS: One hundred and seventeen subjects were recruited from two major trauma centres and randomized to treatment as usual or IPC in the first 3 months following trauma. Measures of depressive, anxiety and post-traumatic symptoms were taken at baseline, 3 months and 6 months. The Structured Clinical Interview for DSM IV diagnoses was conducted at baseline and at 6 months to assess for psychiatric disorder. RESULTS: Fifty-eight patients completed the study. Only half the patients randomized to IPC completed the therapy. At 6 months the level of depressive, anxiety and post-traumatic symptoms and the prevalence of psychiatric disorder did not differ significantly between the intervention and treatment-as-usual groups. Subjects with a past history of major depression who received IPC had significantly higher levels of depressive symptoms at 6 months. CONCLUSION: IPC was not effective as a universal intervention to reduce psychiatric morbidity after major physical trauma and may increase morbidity in vulnerable individuals. Patient dropout is likely to be a major problem in universal multi-session preventative interventions.