Community-Based Psychological First Aid

Community-Based Psychological First Aid

A Practical Guide to Helping Individuals and Communities during Difficult Times

1st Edition - June 2, 2016

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  • Author: Gerard Jacobs
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780128042922
  • eBook ISBN: 9780128043585

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Community-Based Psychological First Aid: A Practical Guide to Helping Individuals and Communities during Difficult Times presents a practical method for helping those in need in difficult times. No advanced training in psychology is needed to use it. Injuries from disasters, terrorist events, and civil unrest are not just physical. These events also cause psychological trauma that can do lasting damage. Psychological First Aid (PFA) draws on human resilience and aims to reduce stress systems and help those affected recover. It is not professional psychotherapy, and those providing this kind of aid do not need a degree to help. Gerard Jacobs has developed this community-based method of delivering PFA over 20 years and has taught it in over 30 countries. Along with the easy-to-follow method, Jacobs includes examples of how this works in action in different situations, and presents scenarios to practice. Unique in its approach of community engagement to train community members to help each other, this guide is an excellent resource for local emergency managers to engage in whole community emergency management.

Key Features

  • Presents a proven method for helping to alleviate the mental health effects of disasters, terrorist attacks, civil unrest, and other community stressors
  • Offers a community-based model developed and taught by an international expert for over 20 years, requiring no advanced training or education in psychology to use
  • Provides techniques that are adaptable to individual communities or cultures
  • Outlines practices for self-care while helping others to prevent burnout
  • Includes case studies, scenarios, and key terms to help facilitate community training


Emergency Managers, particularly those working directly with communities; first responders; humanitarian aid and disaster relief workers; disaster training programs; students in disaster mental health or emergency management programs

Table of Contents

    • Dedication
    • About the Author
    • Acknowledgments
    • 1: What is community-based psychological first aid?
      • Abstract
      • Introduction
      • It Is Not Always Obvious
      • Some Cautionary Notes
      • PFA in a Community Context
    • 2: On being a helper and providing CBPFA
      • Abstract
      • The Art of Helping
      • Characteristics of Effective Helpers
      • Accepting Yourself in the Role of a Helper
      • How to Begin
    • 3: Individual differences in responses to stress
      • Abstract
      • A Model of Individual Reactions to Stress
      • Two Examples to Illustrate the Model
      • Each Person’s Response is Unique
      • How Someone Can be Helped to Reduce Their Stress Reactions
    • 4: Traumatic stress
      • Abstract
      • Emotional Reactions
      • Physical Reactions
      • Behavioral Reactions
      • Cognitive Reactions
      • Individual Differences in Traumatic Stress Reactions
      • When to Seek Professional Help
    • 5: The stress of disasters
      • Abstract
      • What Makes One Disaster More Stressful Than Another?
      • How Stress Changes Through the Course of a Disaster
    • 6: Active listening
      • Abstract
      • The BESTT EARS Model
      • Nonverbal Aspects of Active Listening: BESTT
      • Verbal Aspects of Active Listening: EARS
      • Emotional Aspects of Listening
      • Cognitive Aspects of Listening
      • Closing Thoughts on Active Listening
    • 7: Problem-solving
      • Abstract
      • Stop
      • Options
      • Decide
      • Act
      • Evaluate
      • Acceptable Responses
    • 8: Coping with stress
      • Abstract
      • Basic Coping Strategies
      • Getting Adequate Sleep
      • Eating Well
      • Exercise
      • Coping After a Traumatic Event
      • Overcoming Challenges to Coping
      • Participating in Recovery Efforts Can Be Healing
    • 9: Providing instrumental (practical) assistance
      • Abstract
      • Preparation
      • After Traumatic Events: Emergency Phase
      • Recovery Phase after Traumatic Events
      • Summary
    • 10: Loss and grieving
      • Abstract
      • What to Say
      • Cultural Differences and Rituals
      • Stages of Grief
      • Grief Without Death
      • Referrals
    • 11: When and how to refer
      • Abstract
      • Who Would You Go To for Help?
      • Alarm Bells—When to Worry
      • In Summary
    • 12: Privacy and ethical considerations
      • Abstract
      • Human Value
      • Ethics
    • 13: Taking care of yourself while you support others
      • Abstract
      • Types of Stress
      • Prevention of and Self-Care for Cumulative Stress
      • Traumatic Stress and Secondary Stress
    • 14: Children and traumatic stress
      • Abstract
      • Children’s Emotional Reactions to Traumatic Stress
      • Children’s Physical Reactions to Traumatic Stress
      • Children’s Cognitive Reactions to Traumatic Stress
      • Children’s Behavioral Reactions to Traumatic Stress
      • Trigger Events
      • Risk Factors—Individual
      • Risk Factors—Event
      • The Importance of Individual Differences
      • Challenges in Working with Children
      • Differences in Developmental Stages
      • Strategies for Supporting Children
    • 15: Older adults and people with disabilities
      • Abstract
      • Development Issues and Individual Risk Factors in Late Life
      • What is Normal Aging?
      • Older Adults’ Reactions to Traumatic Stress
      • Delirium
      • Dementia
      • Emotions
      • Special Needs Shelters Following Disasters and Use of Services
      • Social Networks and Caregiving Issues
      • Strategies for Supporting Older Adults
      • Disability
      • Physical Impairment
      • Visual Impairment
      • Hearing Impairment
      • Taste, Smell, and Touch Impairments
      • Conclusions
      • Acknowledgment
    • 16: Community-based psychological first aid with marginalized communities
      • Abstract
      • What is Culture?
      • Being a Helper
      • Understanding Traumatic Stress
      • Community Reactions to Traumatic Stress
      • Disproportionate Impact
      • Cumulative Traumatic Stresses
      • Active Listening
      • Coping Skills
      • Getting Additional Help
      • Making it Relevant for the Community
      • Conclusions
      • Acknowledgment
    • 17: Community-based psychological first aid with rural communities
      • Abstract
      • Characteristics of Rural Communities
      • Rural Values
      • The Case for Rural CBPFA
      • Recommendations
      • Summary
      • Acknowledgment
    • 18: Closing thoughts
      • Abstract
    • Appendix A: Community-based adaptation of CBPFA
    • Subject index

Product details

  • No. of pages: 234
  • Language: English
  • Copyright: © Butterworth-Heinemann 2016
  • Published: June 2, 2016
  • Imprint: Butterworth-Heinemann
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780128042922
  • eBook ISBN: 9780128043585

About the Author

Gerard Jacobs

Gerard A. (Jerry) Jacobs, Ph.D., is the Director of the Disaster Mental Health Institute (DMHI) and a Professor in the doctoral Clinical Psychology Training Program at The University of South Dakota.

He has worked with organizations nationally (e.g., American Red Cross, American Psychological Association [APA], U.S. Centers for Disease Control, U.S. Department of Defense) and internationally (e.g., World Health Organization, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Organizations, Asian Disaster Preparedness Center, International Union for Psychological Science, Japan Red Cross Society).

His disaster responses have ranged from minor events to the massive loss of life and chaos of the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, the 2001 Gujarat, India, earthquake, and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. He was asked to return from working on the tsunami response in Sri Lanka to set up the American Red Cross disaster mental health program for New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Dr. Jacobs was an “invited expert” on the National Biodefense Science Board’s (now the National Preparedness and Response Science Board) Subcommittee on Disaster Mental Health and served as a member of the National Academies of Science Institute of Medicine Committee on Preparing for the Psychological Consequences of Terrorism (Institute of Medicine, 2003). He has been working on the implementation of community-based psychological support since 1996 and has worked in more than 30 countries in developing psychological support programs.

Affiliations and Expertise

Director, Disaster Mental Health Institute, University of South Dakota, SD, USA

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