Psychological First Aid (PFA)

Psychological First Aid (PFA) is an evidence-informed modular approach for assisting children, adolescents, adults, and families in the immediate aftermath of disaster and terrorism.

PFA is designed to reduce the initial distress caused by traumatic events, and to foster short- and long-term adaptive functioning.  Principles and techniques of PFA meet four basic standards: (1) consistent with research evidence on risk and resilience following trauma; (2) applicable and practical in field settings; (3) appropriate to developmental level across the lifespan; and (4) culturally informed.

For citation: National Child Traumatic Stress Network and National Center for PTSD,

Psychological First Aid: Field Operations Guide, September, 2005

Who is PFA For?

PFA intervention strategies are intended for use with children, adolescents, parents/caretakers, families, and adults.

Who Delivers PFA?

PFA is designed for delivery by mental health specialists who provide acute assistance to affected children and families as part of an organized disaster response effort.  These specialists may be imbedded in a variety of response units, including first responder teams, incident command systems, primary and emergency health care providers, school crisis response teams, faith-based organizations, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), Medical Reserve Corps, the Citizens Corps, and disaster relief organizations.

Basic Objectives & Goals of PFA

  • Understand your role as a PFA interventionist.
  • Understand the other roles you may be bringing to the intervention and how to integrate or leave them at the door.
  • Understand the identity and ‘role’ of the trauma survivor.
  • Establish a human connection in a non-intrusive, compassionate manner.
  • Enhance immediate and ongoing safety, and provide physical and emotional comfort.
  • Calm and orient emotionally-overwhelmed/distraught survivors.
  • Help survivors to articulate immediate needs and concerns, and gather additional information as appropriate.
  • Offer practical assistance and information to help survivors address their immediate needs and concerns.
  • Connect survivors as soon as possible to social support networks, including family members, friends, neighbors, and community helping resources.
  • Support resilience, acknowledge coping efforts and strengths, and empower survivors; Encourage adults, children, and families to take an active role in recovery.
  • Provide information that may help survivors cope with the psychological impact of disasters.

Facilitate continuity in disaster response efforts by clarifying how long the PFA provider will be available, and (when appropriate) linking the survivor to another member of a disaster response team or to indigenous recovery systems, public-sector services, and organizations.