February 4, 2013

Training Social Workers Post-Sandy to Administer Psychological First Aid

by Ela Schwartz

After Hurricane Sandy swept through the New York-metropolitan area, faculty and administrators from the Adelphi School of Social Work and the Adelphi University Institute for Parenting took stock of the situation: Not only were thousands of children and adults emotionally traumatized, so were the mental-health providers these people were counting on to provide services.

Luckily Marcy Safyer, M.S.W., LCSW-R, director of the institute, had two colleagues who contacted her to offer their assistance: Michele Many, M.S.W., LCSW, and Amy Dickson, Psy.D.  The two assistant professors with the LSU Health Sciences-New Orleans, Department of Psychiatry had both worked tirelessly after Hurricane Katrina to provide services to storm victims.

Ms. Many and Dr. Dickson recommended introducing their New York counterparts to Psychological First Aid (PFA). Developed by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) and the National Center for PTSD, Psychological First Aid is considered the state-of-the-art approach for helping people cope in the immediate days to weeks following a disaster.

By November 16, Adelphi faculty and staff rapidly pulled together “After the Storm: Psychological First Aid in Response to Hurricane Sandy,” which included an introduction to Psychological First Aid. The overwhelmingly positive response prompted Adelphi to follow up on January 11 with “The Ongoing Response to Hurricane Sandy: What’s Next?” The day of training offered by the Adelphi University School of Social Work, the institute and the Center for Health Innovation offered attendees certification in Psychological First Aid.

The event was attended by not only mental health professionals but emergency-service workers and even a librarian from a hard-hit community.

“For our first event in November, we were telling, not teaching,” Ms. Safyer said. This brings us full circle. With this training (attendees) feel ‘I can do this,’ that they now have the skills to administer Psychological First Aid.”

Ms. Many and Dr. Dickson provided the training gratis. “So many people were generous to us following Katrina,” Ms. Many said. “We wanted to pay it forward.”

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