Challenges of Evaluating Psychological First Aid Outcomes

Robin Gurwitch (bio) comments on the difficulty of evaluating psychological first aid outcomes due to the conditions under which it is administered.

I think, across the board, the goal is to show that psychological first aid does make the difference it's intended to. It's a little different in terms of trying to think about research, because it's not like you can randomly assign. You go in the tornado group, and you go into the non-tornado group, and we'll see what happens. Or, that we're not going to — we're not going to provide support to you in the aftermath of a crisis, and we'll just see how you do. So it becomes a little harder.

Also, it's not like traditional interventions. I may see you one time for a very short amount of time, and I may never see you again. Or I may see you for a couple of times and then not see you again. So, a disaster or trauma situation is very different. So I think what across the board is being done is trying to figure out how do we best design — an area that is critical that we know that what we're trying to do is working. But how do we do that?

And I think it's going to be coupling with groups such as RAND, that has a long history of being able to take large scale events and make sense of them, and look at different interventions and decide whether they're working. Coupling with groups like RAND, coupling with experts in the field, and really putting our minds together and thinking, "What's the best way to look at outcome?" I think it's coming. It's not out there, yet. But I think that's going to be the next step. First step was the development, how do we train it, how do we disseminate it, now how do we evaluate it?

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Excerpted from an interview at CBITS Summit 2012 in Santa Monica, CA.


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