How to Give Psychological First Aid

How to Give Psychological First Aid

Infographic Text: How to Give Psychological First Aid

After a natural disaster or terrorist attack, there are likely going to be many people in distress. If you want to give emergency psychological support to survivors, remember to ASSIST:

Approach the individual.

  • Introduce yourself and state any organization you might be affiliated with.
  • Be polite and professional—remember to say please and thank you.
  • Find a safe, private place to talk if possible.

Stabilize their emotions.

  • Communicate in a calm, warm tone. The person might be in shock, so you may need to repeat yourself at times.
  • Offer to guide them through some grounding exercises, such as taking slow, deep breaths.
  • Ask for permission before you hug or touch them.

Serve their needs.

  • Ask the person what they need. Don’t assume what their priorities are.
  • If they don’t know what they need, offer practical support, such as a blanket or water.
  • Help them find any missing family members or friends.

Inform them of the facts.

  • Give them concrete information about the incident and any relief efforts under way.
  • Don’t make false promises. Avoid generalizations such as “everything will be okay.”
  • Be honest if you don’t know the answer to a question.

Support their story.

  • Respect the person’s privacy. Don’t pressure them into recounting their trauma or sharing personal details.
  • Allow the person to assign whatever spiritual or religious meaning they wish toward the crisis.
  • Let them cry or go silent if they need to.

Turn them toward further services.

  • Direct survivors to the nearest relief station. Do not force them if they are not ready to move yet.
  • Give them written contact information for long-term services, such as trauma counseling.
  • Remember children may need extra direction and care.


  1. About PFA. (n.d.). The National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Retrieved from
  2. Psychological first aid for first responders [PDF]. (n.d.). SAMHSA. Retrieved from
  3. Snider, L., van Ommeren, M. & Schafer, A. (n.d.). Psychological first aid: Guide for field workers. Retrieved from

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  • Leave a Comment
  • Kawthar

    September 1st, 2019 at 11:20 AM

    Please I want to participate
    is it free?

  • Patrick C

    September 9th, 2019 at 12:28 PM

    Thank you for a great article

  • Matthew

    July 5th, 2023 at 2:09 AM

    I will need more information on PFA and other related materials.

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