Mental Health Psychotherapy

Psychology First Aid: What Should Know About Action Principles

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Psychology First Aid: Action Principles

What is psychological first aid?

Psychological first aid or PFA is a humane initial disaster response intervention offered to fellow human beings in need of support. It aims at promoting safety, stabilizing disaster survivors, as well as responding to the psychosocial needs of individuals and families suffering the impacts of disaster and terrorism.

It can be offered to first responders as well as other disaster relief workers. One of the most important principles of psychological first aid is to take care of the immediate needs and concerns of individuals affected by a disaster and not offer on-site therapy.

What is it not?

The action principles of PFA do NOT include:

  •         Offering psychological debriefing
  •         Asking about the details of traumatic experiences
  •         Treatment of the affected individuals
  •         Diagnosing of any kind
  •         Something only professionals can do

Basic Components of Psychological First Aid

Based on the research on risk and resilience, field experience, and expert opinions, the following elements have been considered as the five basic components of psychological first aid. These components need to be the major focus while delivering PFA:

  1.   Offering the assurance of safety: While delivering PSA, mental health and disaster response workers need to communicate in a way so that the ones in distress understand that the stressful situation is over. To do that, they can also shield the distressed person from the scene while assuring them of their safety. To reinforce their sense of safety, the disaster response personnel can show them what steps have been taken to control the situation.
  2.   Calm the patient: Ensuring that the patient stays calm is crucial while responding to them. The disaster response workers need to speak and act calmly to show the patient that they are in a safe place now. Some techniques that can be used by the workers to calm down are taking a deep breath, holding it in for four counts, and then letting it out slowly. This can also be used to calm the patient.
  3.   Promoting self and collective efficacy: Self-efficacy can be fostered among the patients by helping them participate actively in their own rescue. Encouraging them and reminding them of their strengths can boost them to care for themselves as well as their companions in distress. Moreover, it will also help them to cope up with the trauma, overcome their feeling of helplessness and be a part of the team.
  4.   Promoting a sense of connectedness: Fostering connection helps the patients effectively tap into the social support surrounding them. It can be done by building a rescue partnership with the patient as well as connecting them with their loved ones.
  5.   Create hope: The individuals suffering due to the disaster may lose hope and feel helpless. Hence, it is essential to assure them that the current situation may look dark and grim, but it will get better. Giving positive and accurate facts about the event to them can help.

PFA Action Principles: What Are They?

PFA is about helping people in distress and ensuring they receive immediate basic requirements, services, and support. There are four action principles of psychological first aid that lay down the way to approach people in need and aid them in fulfilling that need.

1. Prepare

  • Learn about the crisis event
  • Learn about the available services
  • Learn about safety and security concerns

2. Look

  • Check for safety
  • Check for people with obvious urgent basic needs
  • Check for people with serious distress reactions

3. Listen

  • Approach people who may need support
  • Ask about people’s needs and concerns
  • Listen to people and help them feel calm

4. Link

  • Help people address basic needs and access services
  • Help people cope with problems
  • Give information
  • Connect people with loved ones and social support

1. Prepare

  • Crisis situations can be tumultuous and chaotic hence it is advised to be prepared.
  •  Before you enter a crisis site, try to gather accurate information about the event in question.
  •  Note down and keep a book handy in which you have written down services and help providers’ contact details. This book would also help you track down the identities of victims and note down their important information.
  •  Equip yourself about the safety and security concerns. This will not only keep you safe but also be an effective help for others.


PrepareBefore you enter a crisis site, know and learn about: -
The Crisis Event



·  What happened?


·  Where did it happen?

·  When did it happen?

·  How many and who are affected?

Available Services



·  Who is providing for basic needs (emergency medical care, food, shelter)?


·  When and where can people access services?

·  Who is helping, including community members?

Safety and Security



·  Is the crisis over or ongoing (aftershocks, fighting)?


·  What dangers may be in the environment?

·  Are there places to avoid due to insecurity or because it is not permitted to be there?

2. Look

  •         Crisis situations can change rapidly
  •         What you have to do there may be different from what you learned before
  •         Do a quick scan to look around before offering help
  •         Be calm
  •         Be safe
  •         Think before you act

·         Scan for dangers

·         Be there only if you can keep yourself and others safe.

·         If you are unsure of your safety, don’t enter that place.


·         Communicate from a safe distance.

People with obvious urgent basic needs·         Is anyone critically injured?


·         Does anyone need a rescue?

·         Does anyone have obvious needs? (e.g. clothes, blanket, food, water)

·         Who may need help to access services or to be protected?

·         Know your role


·         Try to obtain help for people who need special assistance

·         Refer critically injured people for care.

People with serious distress·         How many and where are they?


·         Is anyone extremely upset, immobile, not responding to others or in shock?

·         Consider who can benefit from PFA and how best to help them.


3. Listen

Make contact·         Approach respectfully


·         Introduce yourself by name & organization

·         Ask if you can provide help.

·         Help person feel comfortable (water, blanket)

·         Try to keep them safe.

Ask about needs & concerns·         Although some needs are obvious, always ask


·         Find out a person's priorities – what is most important to them.


Listen & help people feel calm



·         Stay close to the person


·         Do not pressure them to talk

·         Listen in case they want to talk

·         If very distressed, help them feel calm & make sure they are not alone


4. Link

  •         Help people help themselves and regain control of their situation.
  •         Find accurate information before helping.
  •         Keep updated
  •         Make sure people are informed of where and how to access services, especially vulnerable individuals.
  •         Do not make up information; say only what you know.
  •         Keep messages simple and accurate, repeat often.
  •         Give the same information to groups to avoid rumours.
  •         Explain the source and reliability of the info you give.
  •         Let them know when/where you will update any future information.

Are you looking for Psychology First Aid treatment? Call us to book an appointment with our counsellor or mental health professional.

Basic Needs·         What needs do they request?


·         What services are available?

·         Don’t overlook the needs of

·         vulnerable or marginalized

·         people

·         Follow up if you promised to do so


Help people cope with problems·         Help them prioritize urgent needs (what to do first)


·         Help them identify supports in their life

·         Give practical suggestions on how they can meet their needs (e.g. registering for food aid)

·         Encourage them to cope better; this will help them feel better.


Social support



·         Keep children with their caregivers and families together.


·         Help them contact their friends and loved ones.

·         Provide them religious support. (e.g. Holy books, etc.)

·         Make sure people know how to access services.



  1. What are the 3 action principles of psychological first aid?

Ans. The principles of Psychological first aid offer guidance as to how an individual can be supported during times of crisis or trauma. There are 4 principles of psychological first aid. They go as follows, Prepare, Listen, Look and Link. These together form the action principles of psychological first aid. 

2.What are the 5 components of psychological first aid?

Ans. The 5 components of psychological first aid are :

  • Offering assurances of safety
  • Calm the patient
  • Promoting self and collective efficacy
  • Promoting a sense of connectedness
  • Create Hope

    3.How do you apply emotional first aid?

Ans. Psychological First Aid or Emotional first aid is necessary to help individuals who have faced a disaster, trauma or any other drastic life event. Psychological First Aid is applied based on the 4 principles. It includes Preparation, Listening to the individual, Looking and understanding, and linking the individual to the nearest help you can find.

4.What is psychological first aid?

Ans. Psychological First Aid or PFA is an initial response intervention offered to individuals who need help. IT is aimed at providing safety, stability and help to survivors of various disasters. It is guided by the 4 principles of Psychological First Aid. 

5.Why do we need emotional first aid?

Ans. In any disaster, there are two kinds of injuries that individuals face. One is the physical injury that is visible on the surface while the other is emotional or psychological trauma. Psychological First aid or emotional first aid aims to meet the immediate psychosocial needs of individuals or families who have faced disaster. 

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