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Learn Psychological First Aid with this practical guide

Learn Psychological First Aid with this practical guide

April 20, 2024

The approach of first aid in the health field has a long history and evolution in recent times. Not so psychological first aid, a more recent term that is increasingly used as it recognizes the importance for the person can have a situation of some emotional impact.

Any person can be affected (as a victim or witness) by a natural disaster, accident or terrorist act of some magnitude. That is why it is essential to have at least minimal guidelines for action, with the ideal being to include these contents in the educational context or, failing that, to carry out specific training in order to have effective intervention tools.


  • Recommended article: "Guide to know how to give emotional first aid"

Phases of a traumatic crisis

There are several phases of a traumatic crisis: impact, reaction and post-event . However, we will focus on this article in the first phase, perhaps the most relevant in psychological first aid because it is the first. This one has the following characteristics:

  • It is the phase that happens immediately after the traumatic experience and can last for several minutes, hours or even a few days.
  • The person is usually emotionally disturbed, with a limitation when thinking or acting . There is also a loss of sense of time and reality (feeling that it is not happening) and reactions that range from hyper activity (walking non-stop in a certain direction) to immobility or paralysis.

Intervention with the affected person

  • In the first place, whoever acts as an intervener must identify himself , ask the victim by name and let him know that he is there to help you.
  • It is crucial to remove the victim from danger if applicable.
  • The intervener must remain calm and also transmit it, as it will serve as a model in front of the victim (or victims). In addition, it will try to rationalize the action and in the event that the situation exceeds it, request the relief if it is feasible.
  • Regarding verbal communication, it is advisable to speak calmly, calmly, giving clear and concise information, avoiding inappropriate comments for that situation and with an active listening attitude.
  • In the non-verbal, you have to maintain contact and adopt a comfortable but attentive position.
  • Of equal importance is to provide basic needs: water, food, blankets, etc. Also allow the emotion of the victim to flow combining this action with others as the distraction to avoid continued attention to what has happened.
  • A separate issue and in many cases of equal importance, is to avoid the curious. Sometimes it is useful to give tasks to these people to help in the process and facilitate greater privacy for the victims.

Bad news communication

This is an important task within psychological first aid and although the information will harm the person who receives it, the good or bad performance of the intervener in this communication may minimize or maximize the psychological impact of the person receiving it.


We must know that there are factors that will determine the degree of the impact of bad news such as the personality of the recipient, the existence of previous losses, the relationship with the victim or the predictability or unpredictability of the bad news.

On the other hand, it is important to distinguish three phases within this communication in the communication protocol:

1. Before starting the conversation

  • If possible, it is necessary to establish which person is more qualified to give the bad news.
  • The issuer or intervener must have all the necessary information about what has happened, at what time and place, person or persons affected, etc.
  • Of vital importance is to have confirmed the identity of the victim or deceased persons.
  • There must be adequate physical spaces that have instruments and necessary elements (water, handkerchiefs, etc.).

2. During the information

  • Whenever possible, the information should be given only once to the family, in order to avoid giving it several times, something that increases the impact.
  • The intervening person introduces himself and asks the relative if he knows the reason why he has been called.
  • The message should be short, avoiding lengthening it excessively, understandably and delicately, explaining what has happened, the people affected and their status. You will always avoid giving false hopes or incorrect information.
  • From this moment, different reactions will appear: cry, disbelief, silences, screams ...) that must be allowed.
  • If no information is requested and there is more than one family member, the person giving the news is removed and allows family expression, remaining in the background but attentive.

3. After communicating the bad news

  • Family members should not be left alone, if they leave.
  • Show empathy for reactions and cover basic needs.
  • Offer other sources of support.
  • Finally, analyze how the situation has affected the intervening person.

Final tips

As we see, it is essential to have protocols of action in the face of normally unforeseen events that due to their consequences , they bring emotional pain to victims and families.


As mentioned at the beginning of the article, given the importance of both professionals and people not linked to the health field (any of us can witness an event of this kind) have tools for action in this area, it is necessary to train this area .

If you want to go deeper, do not hesitate to consult the distance course on psychological first aid that Psychological Training organizes from its website.


How to give psychological first aid (April 2024).


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