The Effectiveness of Psychological First Aid as a Disaster Intervention Tool: Research Analysis of Peer-Reviewed Literature From 1990-2010

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Sufficient evidence for psychological first aid is widely supported by available objective observations and expert opinion and best fits the category of “evidence informed” but without proof of effectiveness. An intervention provided by volunteers without professional mental health training for people who have experienced a traumatic event offers an acceptable option.

This review investigated whether first-aid providers without professional mental health training, when confronted with people who have experienced a traumatic event, offer a “safe, effective and feasible intervention.”  The methodology included the search of standard databases by an expert panel from 1990 to September 2010 using the keyword phrase “psychological first aid.” Documents were included if the process was referred to as care provided to victims, first responders, or volunteers and excluded if it was not associated with a disaster or mass casualty event, or was used after individual non-disaster traumas such as rape and murder (yielding 58 citations, with no controlled studies). Results determined that adequate scientific evidence for psychological first aid is lacking but widely supported by “expert opinion and rational conjecture”. Further outcome research is recommended.

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