First Aid

What is Psychological First Aid

Ricky Kambray
Ricky Kambray

Let’s start by answering, “what is Psychological First Aid?” Psychological First Aid is a way to help people who are feeling upset, anxious, or scared. It focuses on understanding the person’s strengths and coping mechanisms and using that information to help them feel better.

What is Psychological Frist Aid?

Psychological first aid (PFA) can be described as a set of skills or calming techniques that help people feel more relaxed and in control in difficult situations. In simpler words, it is a way to help someone upset or uncomfortable feel more comfortable.

When trying to help someone, you should also be paying attention to what they’re saying and how they’re responding and if there are any issues or needs, you can help with them right away. Psychological first aid skills can help you understand and support people during difficult times.

The psychological components, which can be considered as steps, too, are mainly 5 in total. They are- Create a Sense of Safety, Create Calm, Sense of Control, Social Connection and Hope.

An illustration of the 5 components of Psychological First Aid


Later in the blog, you will better understand these 5 components.

Psychological First Aid

Why Use PFA?

If you want to hear from the experts, you must know that the World Health Organization (WHO) decided what kind of help to give people who have been affected by a traumatic event.

They looked at the evidence and decided that psychological first aid (psychological counselling) and psychological debriefing (sharing information and feelings with someone who has been affected) are both helpful.

The researchers of the world health organisation found that psychological first aid, rather than psychological debriefing, is the best way to help people who have been through a traumatic event. (WHO)

Physical injuries are visible, which is why they can be treated instantly, but emotional distress is not visible. When someone has faced a traumatic incident, such as a car accident, they go through shock. Such traumatic situations have a severe psychological impact.

Psychological first aid should be used to comfort people who have been through a traumatic or emergency event.

On Whom Should PFA Be Used?

A bunch of kids with a man


PFA can be of help to anyone in distress. However, everyone copes with difficult situations very differently. Some people prefer other people’s presence to feel good, and some want to manage on their own.

So do not give psychological first aid to anyone. Only provide it to those who need it. 

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Is PFA for Adults and Children the Same?

Psychological first aid can be provided to adults and children. However, while delivering it, one must remember that one’s psychology differs depending on age. 

Children are more sensitive since their brains develop and traumatic incidents can scar them for life. Thus, while providing PFA to them, one must be very careful.

Also, some risks are specific to children. These include losing or becoming separated from parents and caregivers, child abuse, and exploitation. In these cases, the PFA provider needs to be emphatic.

Is PFA Diffrent According to Culture?

Even though the core value is the same, the approach can vary from culture to culture. When communicating with people from different cultures, it is vital to consider their customs and beliefs. 

You should also use different communication methods, depending on the culture.

5 Components of PFA

Psychological first aid can help people who have been through a traumatic event. If you want to help people who have faced an accident or crisis, you must know what psychological first aid is and its 5 components.

You can take one of our courses to get a more in-depth insight into what psychological first aid is and how to use it (link to our course). Here are the 5 proven components of psychological first aid that are also taught in our psychological first aid training courses.

1. Create a Sense of Safety

A girl in two different moods, one is angry and sad and the other one is happy and cheerful

Making someone feel safe means letting them know the stressful situation is over. By shielding the patient from a disturbing scene or telling them they’re safe, you can help them feel less stressed.

For instance, when there is a storm and someone is in shock, move them away from it and point out that the storm has passed.

2. Create Calm

When you’re feeling anxious or upset, it’s hard to help your patient calm down. Before you try supporting people, make sure you’re calm yourself. By staying calm and speaking in a soothing voice, you can help your patient feel more at ease.

This will help them start to calm down and relax. If you find it hard to calm yourself or your patient, try these techniques: take a deep breath, count to four, and then let your breath out slowly. Then, help your patient do the same.

A man is doing a human brain puzzle and another woman in the distance is climbing on a ladder to reach the highest piece of the puzzle


3. Sense of Control

During a crisis, many people feel like they can’t do anything. They feel helpless and clueless. In such situations, regaining a sense of control can help them understand that things are stable now.

Reminding the victim of a friend whom they can help, such as helping a friend rebuild a backyard shed after a storm or cleaning a friend’s backyard.

Making progress takes small steps, and it can help people regain a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives. Don’t underestimate the power of small gestures. They can have a significant impact on someone’s life.

Spiral signal-like substances coming out of a woman's head on a black background


4. Social Connection

When patients make connections with others, they can access the social supports that are available to them. This can help them feel more connected and make them feel better.

To connect with your patient, start by using their name and forming a rescue partnership. This will help create a strong bond and help you get through any medical emergency together. 

A group of people holding connected circle icons


5. Hope

Hope is really important during a crisis. It is like a light in a dark room that can help someone walk.

To help build hope, talk about the good things that have already happened. Point out specific, accurate details about what has happened and discuss what we can do to make things better in the future. 

Hope is essential for the patient and the team of caregivers providing care.

These components were developed based on the latest mental health research, so anyone can use them. Some people find these tools so helpful that they can see how their stress is affecting them.

A man is giving a first aid icon to another man


PFA and Counseling is it the Same?

After going through the blog, you might think, “Hey, PFA sounds like counselling.” Well, to be honest, it does, but it is not.

  • PFA is not a traditional type of psychiatric treatment. Instead, it is a strategy used to reduce stress reactions in people affected by a traumatic or emergency event.
  • On the other hand, counselling is a type of therapy that involves a professional therapist who helps you helpfully deal with your feelings. A therapist will listen to you and help you solve your problems.

A happy woman sitting and talking to her psychologist


To sum up, PFA is a service specifically designed to help people who have recently experienced a crisis. If you see somebody very upset, you can provide them with comfort. 

Anyone can provide PFA. Having a professional certificate is not mandatory, but it is always best if you take some training. Since you are dealing with someone’s emotions, you can take (our course) to get a broader idea of psychological first aid.

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ]

What are the action principles of PFA?

The three basic action principles of PFA are; look, listen and link. 

These action principles will help guide how you view and safely enter a crisis, approach affected people, understand their needs, and link them with practical support and information.

What do I do if someone needs more help than I can give?

When in doubt, consult! Trauma can affect many people differently and have long-term psychological effects. Some people can recover on their own, while others may need more help from professionals.

Do I need to be certified to use Psychological First Aid?

No, you don’t have to be a professional to be able to provide psychological support to individuals. However, getting in-depth knowledge about something is always best before handling a sensitive situation. You can take one of our courses (our course) for that.

How many people face PTSD in the UK?

One in ten people in the UK will experience PTSD at some point. PTSD is a disorder that is caused by a traumatic experience. It can make you feel terrified and upset.

A lot of people in the UK are going to develop PTSD or C-PTSD at some point in their lives. It’s a severe condition, but people don’t understand it very well, so it’s often misdiagnosed and stigmatised. (

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Ricky Kambray

Hey this is Ricky Kambray an award-winning first-aid trainer with over 20 years of healthcare and teaching expertise. Highly certified general nurse regularly appears in the press discussing accident prevention and first aid advice.