Nationally and internationally, the most endorsed response in the first hours and weeks after a traumatic event is Psychological First Aid.
Just as Medical First Aid is given immediately to a person to minimize injury and reduce future medical complications and disability, Psychological First Aid involves providing connection, safety, basic needs, information, and recognizing if professional care is needed as a way to reduce the possibility of longterm emotional impact.
Couples Psychological First Aid unfolds from an understanding of the power of attachment by researchers like Alan Shore (2003) . It causes us to recognize that in the immediate aftermath of crisis, disaster, and unanticipated loss, the presence of the partner, even their voice on a phone, has a more soothing physical and emotional impact than that of anyone else. Actually, couples often have a great deal to offer each other but they are often uncertain how to proceed or whether their presence even makes a difference.
Carey was hysterical when she learned that her younger brother, just 30 years old, had been diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer. Jack, her husband, was also stunned and not sure how to help. The only thing he could do was listen and hug her…While trying to understand her brother’s illness, Carey began to repeat, “This can’t be true. Who is healthier than my brother? You know him—he never even smoked! What happened? Tell me what you think happened.” Feeling the intensity of her pain but knowing he had no answers, Jack held Carey and said “Carey, I don’t know. I hear you—it’s too much to believe. He’s your brother, I know how much you love him and it just doesn’t make sense. It’s just too much.” ( Excerpt from Healing Together p.31)
Feeling helpless and upset himself, Jack did not realize that he was actually using Couples Psychological First Aid. The Four Principles of Couples Psychological First Aid include:
- Being a compassionate presence for each other
- Establishing physical and psychological safety
- Identifying and responding to needs
- Offering practical assistance and supporting coping skills
You may find as these are explained that you are already using some of these, that others seem too simple to make a difference …