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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, 
    compassionate manner.

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 
    helping resources

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.

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."

PFA Program Site

National Child Traumatic Stress Network Fact Sheet on PFA

PFA for Schools


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]. fact_sheet.pdf 

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