Psychological First Aid: Your First Response to Tramatic Events


Friday, March 1, 2019, 9:00 AM—4:00 PM
Psychological First Aid: Your First Response to Traumatic Events
Larry Berkowitz, EdD, James McCauley, LICSW


Psychological First Aid (PFA) is an evidence informed approach to help children, adolescents, adults and families in the immediate aftermath of disasters, acts of violence, sudden death, terrorism and similar distressing events. PFA is designed to reduce the initial distress caused by traumatic events and to foster short and long term adaptive functioning and coping.

This workshop will provide practical information to help mental health professionals safely, effectively and efficiently respond to the immediate effects of traumatic events. Participants will receive in-depth information on the impact traumatic events have on a person’s psychological functioning and specific intervention techniques. This training uses didactic and experiential (role playing) approaches to teach the human response to trauma, the importance of the responder fully understanding his/her role in the work, and the 8 core components of Psychological First Aid.

PFA has been developed by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and the National Center for PTSD, and is the default trauma response supported by the World Health Organization. It is considered an evidence-informed intervention, as it is based on best practices and available evidence as to what activities best promote recovery from disaster. Participants will practice using several components of PFA.

Following this training the participants will be able to:

  1. Describe key attributes of the responder that will facilitate successful administration of PFA
  2. Describe the human psychological response to trauma/stress
  3. List and describe the 8 core functions of Psychological First Aid (PFA)
  4. Describe common bereavement reactions and describe two models of understanding grief
  5. Demonstrate use of several core functions of PFA

Lawrence Berkowitz, Ed.D. is the Director and Co-founder of the Riverside Trauma Center, which provides community response to help people recover from highly stressful events. He was previously the Director of the Riverside Outpatient Center in Wakefield, MA., and currently holds an appointment as a part-time Teaching Associate in Psychology at Harvard Medical School. He has extensive experience as a psychologist, consultant and trainer, including significant experience providing training in suicide prevention, assessment and postvention. Major trauma responses have included responding to Logan Airport following the attaches of 9/11, directing the FEMA crisis counseling program after the tornados in western and central Massachusetts in June, 2011, and helping to coordinate behavioral health responses to the Boston marathon bombing.

James McCauley, LICSW, is the Co-founder and Associate Director of the Riverside Trauma Center which provides critical incident response and postvention services to schools and communities throughout Massachusetts. He has more than twenty years’ experience managing outpatient programs for both children and adults. For twenty-five years he was a Senior Lecturer in the Sociology Department at Suffolk University. Jim has a special interest and provides consultation and training on postvention services, suicide clusters, and suicide prevention coalitions. He has presented at several statewide, national and international conferences on these topics. Jim is also a developer and trainer for the “Suicide Assessment and Intervention Training for Mental Health Clinicians” which is listed in the Best Practices Registry of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. He is the co-author of “Organizational Postvention after Suicide Death” in Grief After Suicide: Understanding the Consequences and Caring for the Survivors; Jordan and McIntosh, Routledge, 2010.

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