PFA: Psychological First Aid
By Jack Komer, 12/2021.
What is PFA?
PFA is an evidenced-informed intervention designed to be put into place immediately following disasters, terrorism, and other emergencies, and has received wide usage worldwide. PFA is comprised of eight core helping actions: contact and engagement, safety and comfort, stabilization, information gathering, practical assistance, connection with social supports, information on coping support, and linkage with collaborative services. There is a specific version for schools.
Components of PFA (NCTSN, 2012, Pg. 1-2)
1. Contact and Engagement: Establish a human connection in a non-intrusive,
2. Safety and Comfort: Enhance immediate and ongoing safety, and provide physical
and emotional comfort.
3. Stabilization: Calm and orient emotionally-overwhelmed/distraught survivors.
4. Information Gathering: Help survivors to articulate immediate needs and
concerns, and gather additional information as appropriate.
5. Practical Assistance: Offer practical assistance and information to help survivors
address their immediate needs and concerns.
6. Connection with Social Supports: Connect survivors as soon as possible to social
support networks, including family members, friends, neighbors, and community
7. Information on Coping: Provide information that may help survivors cope with the
psychological impact of disasters/emergencies.
8. Linkage with Collaborative Services: Facilitate continuity in response efforts
by clarifying how long the PFA provider will be available, and (when appropriate)
linking the survivor to another member of a response team or to indigenous
recovery systems, public-sector services, and organizations.
Evidence of PFA
Pilot/Feasibility Trials (NCTSN, 2012):
Allen, B., Brymer, M. J., Steinberg, A. M., Vernberg, E. M., Jacobs, A, Speier A, & Pynoos, R. S. (2010). Perceptions of Use of Psychological First Aid among Providers Responding to Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 23, 509-513. https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.20539
Outcome of Trials (NCTSN, 2012, Pg. 3):
"To examine provider perceptions of PFA training, 50 respondents to an online survey
were asked to evaluate the impact of the training on their confidence to provide
PFA to adults and children impacted by hurricanes. Overall, responders found PFA
beneficial in their response activities and were pleased with their experience in
providing PFA. Responders reported feeling more confident providing PFA to adults
than to children. The study provides preliminary evidence that PFA is viewed as a
helpful resource by responders."
Allen, B., Brymer, M. J., Steinberg, A. M., Vernberg, E. M., Jacobs, A, Speier A, & Pynoos, R. S. (2010). Perceptions of Use of Psychological First Aid among Providers Responding to Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 23, 509-513.
Brymer, M., Layne, C., Jacobs, A., Pynoos, R., Ruzek, J., Steinberg, A., et al. (2006) Psychological First Aid Field Operations Guide (2nd Edition). Los Angeles, CA: National Child Traumatic Stress Network and National Center for PTSD
NCTSN. (2012). PFA: Psychological First Aid [Fact sheet]. https://www.nctsn.org/sites/default/files/interventions/pfa fact_sheet.pdf