The Effectiveness of Psychological First Aid as a Disaster Intervention Tool


The objective of this paper is to seek to critique a research on Effectiveness of Psychological First Aid offered by first-aid providers with no professional psychological health training provided. The critiques considers all the areas of the research from introduction, methodology, data analysis to research findings. It seeks to digress the research and critically analyze the whole structure, methods of data collection, analysis, conclusions and recommendations. Comparing the report and presentation of ideas, criticism is meant to show how the research is biased and ineffective.

The Effectiveness of Psychological First Aid as a Disaster Intervention Tool


In real life situation, it happens that when a tragic event occurs, people of different levels of dexterity in safety and disaster recovery show up and volunteer to safe the ones affected. Irrespective of whether trained in safety or not, the fundamental need here is to provide safety and give the survivors a chance to live effectively. Catastrophic events cause physical and mental negative effects which might be of less or adverse impact and of temporary or permanent existence (De Jong, 2006). The scope of effect brought about by any catastrophic event may be predetermined and dictated by the event itself or dependent on the measures taken in addressing the outcomes of the event itself. Mental negative effects mostly are founded on the aftermath outcomes and the impact they bring to an individual and may turn to be traumatic. Anyone who is traumatized urgently needs specialized psychological attention to counteract the effects of the trauma otherwise the situation might become overwhelming (Ruzek et al, 2007). Just like in physical injury, this is a mental first aid professionally known as Psychological First Aid.

The article being critiqued is a report that presents results of a research on the effectiveness of the Psychological First Aid based on the expertise of the person providing the first aid (Fox, 2012). The Advisory Council of the American Red Cross Disaster Services wanted to establish feasibility, safety and effectiveness of intervention offered by first-aid providers with no professional psychological health training. The need led to study of the subject and results are presented in the above mentioned article. In this assignment I seek to criticize the document all from the motive behind the research, data presentation, and analysis.


Research Introduction

The title of the research; The Effectiveness of Psychological First Aid as a Disaster Intervention Tool: Research Analysis of Peer-Reviewed Literature From 1990-2010, is quite elaborative (Fox, 2012). It is possible for the reader to know the intention of the study from the topic. The title of the research is supposed to accurately define its intentions.

Vital components in a research study such as study objective, problem statement, background information, and research questions do not feature in the introduction of the study (Bassett & Bissett, 2003). The essence of indicating the aims and objectives of a study, the research problem, the research questions and the research hypothesis is to form a significant link between the primarily stated purpose of the study or research problem and how the research will be undertaken in order to achieve the intended goals.

The introduction begins with definition of the word “psychological first aid’ and a historical background of the terminology (Fox 2012). This is a significant approach that the researchers use to ensure the readers will understand the key terminology used in the entire research. However, the research did not involve different theorist to get different definitions. There is need to incorporate different views from different theorist in order to understand the terminology better (Tanner, 2003). Different definitions creates a broader sense of what the research intends to investigate while one definition might limit the scope of the research. Normally, the introduction should make the objective of the research clear. This is achieved through elaborative definition of key words that are used throughout the research. Also, a substantial background of the research should be provided in the introduction part.

There are vital components of a research study that are missing in the introduction part of the research. One, there lacks elaborate statement of the problem. Every research work is geared towards addressing a certain problem. Research problem acts as a guide map that ensures appropriate navigation in the research (Tanner, 2003). It is not possible to carry out a research that does not intend to address a certain problem. Though the idea of what research intends to covers is elaborated in the research topic, it does not sufficiently portray the research problem. The research problem should be realistic. Also, the identified problem should be “researchable”, such that investigations on the problem can provide vital information.

Secondly, the research lacks background information that should elaborates the reasons that led to the research. Background information provides significant foundation which supports the entire research. This section should provide information based on researcher’s views which led to the investigation in the study. This vital elements lacks in the research leaving a room for the readers to guess on what background information might have led to the study. The reason for conducting a research should be clearly brought out in the research introduction.

Thirdly, literature review, which is a significant part of a research is not provided. Literature review provides vital arguments which are relevant to the research problem from other studies. It also provides the theoretical context upon which the new study is based. A good literature review should be comprehensive, relevant to the study and covering recent research articles. The main purpose of the literature review is to describe or advance the research questions while also identifying a suitable method for data collection (Bazeley, 2009). It also aid in identification of any gaps in the literature related to the problem and to propose how those gaps can be filled.


Research Method

Research methodology refers to the steps and procedures of how a research study is undertaken. There are several vital components that must be incorporated in a good research method and the first one is research design. The method of the study employed by the research sought to establish an arguments based on other studies. This approach avoid vital processes such as questionnaire and interviews. Questionnaires and interviews provides significant information from the individuals affected by the problem that the research intends to explain (Blaxter, 2010).

The method used in research and data collection, searching of Standard databases, alone is not sufficient enough to conclude that the evidence could be weak and opt to rely on group expertise to give recommendations. Before settling for group expertise as basis for their analysis and conclusions, they ought to consider some other way of data collection that could give another perspective different from what the council got from the data base searching. Several sources of information and the methods used in collecting data give higher percentage of precision when it comes to drawing conclusions (Bazeley, 2009). For instance, carrying out some well-structured interviews on both victims, first-aid providers with professional training in psychological health and first-aid providers with no psychological training would give first-hand information and excellent basis for analysis which when combined with the searching of the databases would assure reliability of the information and thus the conclusions and recommendations too.

The researchers used psychological first aid as a key word in searching a standard database with information from 1990 to 2010. Although the research made use of materials covering a wide time span, current materials would have significantly influence the relevance of the study. Current studies includes research studies that were done as from 2011 and beyond.  The fact that significant changes occur with time, there is need to make use of current materials in order to find vital information that relates to the current situation (Blaxter, 2010). Based on the fact that the research was conducted on 2012, there was need to engage research studies done in 2011 and 2012. Also, a broader span of coverage is a significant step towards establishing a strong research conclusion. The high the number of materials consulted in the study the better the theory established.

Consideration was made to documents that included first responders, volunteers and care given to victims. On the other hand, the articles were overlooked if they were associated with mass casualty event, or was used after individual non disaster traumas such as murder and rape. The whole research included 58 citations. The database used included: PILOTS, PubMed, MEDLINE, PsychArticles and Cochrane. Documents were included in the references if they mentioned to the process of PFA as vital care given to first responders, the affected individuals, or volunteers. Among those considered included 50 peer reviewed journal articles that were considered relevant for the study. In addition, vital practice guidelines were incorporated in the research. The guidelines were selected on the basis that they were evidence based studies that made use of scientific evidence to draw conclusions. The practical guidelines considered came from organizations such as; ARC, American Psychiatric Association (APA), National Institutes of Mental Health (NIME), and the Department of Health and Human (DHH).

The important variables are not identified in the study. It is impossible to control inessential variables in the study if the main variables are not identified. In the research methodology, the researcher should have elaborated the variable used, dependent and independent variable that should be compared in order to achieve the objective of the study (Tanner, 2003). Credible variables concentrate on how realistic the research study appears and focus on the researcher’s experiences and ability to undertake and precisely present the research.

Data Analysis

A good research should clearly identify the statistical tests undertaken, why these tests were applied and what their results were (Blaxter, 2010). However, the research does not provide an elaborative data analysis. The results obtained from different research articles should have been analyzed in different tables to show significant similarities and differences that are vital in addressing the research problem. This should include a summary of the literature reviewed by the researcher along with their determined level of evidence. The articles should have been categorized using basic concepts in order to establish vital basis for the research.

The result finding of the research established that there was neither sufficient evidence to support a treatment standard for Psychological First Aid or nor sufficient evidence to support a treatment guideline. This might have been attributed to the fact that the research used insufficient amount of research materials. The research should have included current articles and used more practical guidelines to increase the chances of identifying vital support for PFA. However, the research findings established a wide support from experts’ opinion and rational conjecture that demonstrated that Psychological First Aid offers an acceptable intervention option.

There are no inferential statistics test in the research to ascertain the significance of the materials and approach used in the study. Inferential statistical experiments are used to point out if a relationship or variance between variables is statistically important. Statistical significance enables the researchers to rule out one significant threat to validity and which is the fact that the result could be as a result of chance rather than to real variances in the population (Blaxter, 2010).

Some of the references used were as old as 1974 and 1988. A good research should be supported by current references that addresses current issues. Old references do not capture vital aspects that significantly influences the current situation. There are only 29 references, this indicates that all the article used in the study were not referenced. The study used 50 article and 8 organizational statement which should have been use among the other cited work.

Communicating Findings

The findings of the research have not been discussed elaborately. Discussion of research findings is considered the vital skeleton upon which the entire research is based (Tanner, 2003). The discussion of the findings should follow a logical approach and should mainly relate back to the literature review thus placing the research in context (Blaxter, 2010). If the research hypothesis was thought to have been reinforced by the findings, the researchers should have developed develop this in the discussion. If any theoretical or conceptual framework was applied in the study then the relationship with the research findings should be keenly explored. Any analysis or inferences made should be evidently identified as such and coherent with the research results.

It is quite contradicting that the research recommendations given were neither based on the findings nor seem to relate with it at all. It is clear that there were no controlled studies found with sufficient evidence to support a treatment standard, nor sufficient evidence to support a treatment guideline with regard to PFA administration yet the Advisory Council on First Aid, Aquatics, Safety and Preparedness (ACFASP) recommended American Red Cross to include PFA in all its courses relevant to steps taken to address conditions brought about by traumatic experiences. Despite the fact that there’s an argument of basing this on expert opinion, it fall short of what was expected to be captured in the research findings. Worse still is the recommendation that they should be established and incorporated into the training of American Red Cross volunteers a Psychological First Aid program (Fox, 2012). The fact that the psychological First Aid provided by first-aid providers with no professional psychological health training was found reliable, effective and acceptable to the ones who have experienced a traumatic events disqualifies such a recommendation whose implementation requires time and financial resources. It is conclusive to say that, within the precepts of first aid provision the provider is, by virtue of sympathy, conditioned to psychologically link with the victim and thus able to pull them out of the level of distress up to the common level of rest and contentment depending on the degrees of trauma inflicted by the event.

The implication of the research findings should be clearly stated in a manner that is within the confines of the overall strengths and limitations of the study (Bazeley, 2009). Finally the research should have evaluated the clinical implication and relevance of the study. The manner in which the findings can be applied in practice should be recommended with vital caution that depends on the nature and purpose of the study. Additionally, the researcher should make applicable and meaningful proposals for future research in the area (Bassett & Bissett, 2003).Based on this research analysis, a significant recommendation has been made to the American Red Cross that the principles of Psychological First Aid be included in all ARC courses relevant to the consequences of traumatic events, including but not principally limited to first aid, lifeguard training, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and nurses assistant training.

The conclusions and review drawn in the research were limited due to lack of scientific evidence. It seem that PFA has not been allowed to become eligible for population-based randomized studies, and such programs have been left to the scrutiny of rational conjecture, expert opinion and common practices. However, the conclusion is based on inadequate research method employed in the study.


The process of critiquing a research study includes an in-depth inspection of each stage of the study process. After this keen investigation, it is evident that there is so much clutter and redundancy of highest order in the research as it lacks authenticity displaying poor articulation of the study. By practice, a research study ought to expose its sense of maturity towards its intentions in such a presentation that all aspects therein can be easily captured by anyone going through it. In this specific one, it is quite a challenge to establish what were the findings of the research, how was the obtained data analyzed, how were conclusions made and on what bases were recommendations done. It also misses the powerful of visual presentation and illustrations of data in tabulation, graphs and related means. Failure to use these commonly known and easily interpreted analytical methods gives much strain to anyone wishing or intended to derive any course of action from its message.


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De Jong, J. (Ed.). (2006). Trauma, war, and violence: Public mental health in socio-cultural context. Springer Science & Business Media.

Fox, J. H., Burkle, F. M., Bass, J., Pia, F. A., Epstein, J. L., & Markenson, D. (2012). The effectiveness of psychological first aid as a disaster intervention tool: research analysis of peer-reviewed literature from 1990-2010. Disaster medicine and public health preparedness6(03), 247-252.

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