What is Psychologial First Aid for Schools (PFA-S)?
Psychological First Aid for Schools (PFA-S) is an evidence-informed intervention model to assist students, families, school personnel, and school partners in the immediate aftermath of an emergency. PFA-S is designed to reduce the initial distress caused by emergencies, and to foster short- and long-term adaptive functioning and coping.
The principles and techniques of PFA-S meet 5 basic standards:
1. Consistent with research evidence on risk and resilience following trauma
2. Respectful of and consistent with the school administration of the academic setting, school culture, and the behavior (code of conduct) of students
3. Applicable and practical in field settings
4. Appropriate for developmental levels across the lifespan
5. Delivered in a culturally-informed and flexible manner
PFA-S assumes that students and staff members may experience a broad range of early reactions (e.g., physical, cognitive, psychological, behavioral, spiritual) following an emergency. Some of these reactions can cause distress that interferes with adaptive coping, but support from informed, compassionate, and caring professionals can help students and staff members recover from these reactions.
Why Provide Psychological First Aid in Schools?
Schools are typically the first service agencies to resume operations after a disaster/emergency and can become a primary source of community support during and after the incident.
Preparing for emergencies is critical for all school staff.
Emergencies affect students’ academic and social achievement.
Trauma-related distress can have a long-term impact if left untreated.
Brief interventions can produce positive results that last.
Who Is PFA-S for?
PFA-S is intended for students, school personnel, and their families who have been exposed to a disaster or other emergency. Whether an emergency occurs on school grounds or in the community at large, schools serve as a central location for professionals to assist children, families, school personnel, and school partners.
Who Delivers PFA-S?
Because it is not psychotherapy, an extended “treatment,” or a stand-alone mental health intervention, any staff member, regardless of whether he/she has had mental health training, can deliver aspects of PFA-S and can contribute to the school recovery by functioning within the PFA framework.