12 Step Psychological First Aid


  1. Observation and Awareness
    You first note that there may be a need for psychological first aid due to outward appearances-what you see or hear someone saying-or because you have heard about their stressful circumstances.
  2. Make a Connection
    This will differ based on your particular relationship to the person. For example, if the person does not know you, you may need to appropriately introduce yourself. Even if you are “acting” in an online conversation, you will need to have had some history with the person or to have been introduced through a mutual connection. Making a connection means acting in a way that makes it clear you are focused completely on the person you are trying to support.
  3. Help People Feel Comfortable and at Ease
    Common courtesies such as helping someone with their coat, providing simple information, or just acting friendly and accepting can make people feel comfortable
  4. Be Kind, Calm, and Compassionate
    Show by your mannerisms that you care and are respectful. Be careful about touching. This also depends on your particular relationship with the person. If you don’t know the person well, wait to see if he or she touches your hand or arm. A brief, light touch on the hand or arm can be very reassuring or warming.
  5. Assist with Basic Needs :
    When relevant, such as providing water or food, accommodations for sleeping, and ways for staying connected with support systems.
  6. Listen : Let people talk about whatever it is they would like to talk about, but do not push them beyond what they want to share. Sometimes all that a person needs is an opportunity to “vent,” or share their feelings or frustrations.
  7. Give Realistic Reassurance : “Everything will be fine” is not realistic. Saying “I’m sorry to hear that” or “I can see how you would be feeling that way” helps people see their reactions as normal. Reassure them that resilience can help carry them through.
  8. Encourage Good Coping
    Coping behaviors are learned based on our unique life experiences. We all have our own particular styles and strategies for coping. Some are positive and some are not so helpful.
  9. Help People Connect with Others
    Connecting means not only with deployed loved ones, but also with other existing and new social connections.
  10. Give Accurate and Timely Information
    Share relevant information only if you know it to be accurate; otherwise refer to some other source.
  11. Suggest a Referral Resource
    There are many resources for information and services that are helpful for military families.
  12. End the Conversation
    This depends on the circumstance and your relationship to the person. However, leave the person with the impression that you care, even if you are unlikely to see the person again.

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