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Skills comparision of volunteer-based trauma programs : Exploring the uses of emotional first aid skills

24 July 1998


In keeping with the American Psychological Association's recommendation for more research with disaster mental health intervention programs, this study used self-report measures to assess how effectively a volunteer-based trauma/disaster intervention program trained its volunteers to provide people with emotional support during the immediate aftermath of a crisis event. By comparing it to similar volunteer-based disaster intervention programs comprised of chaplains who also provided on-scene assistance to victimized
. people, it was hypothesized that the Trauma Intervention Program (TIP) training curricula provided its volunteers with a set of crisis intervention skills, called Emotional First Aid (BFA) skills, that were unmatched by other disaster intervention programs, and capable of being used both in traumatic and in less acute or non-traumatic situations. Contrary to expectations, univariate analyses revealed that of the five EFA skills of Reaching Out, Protecting, Reassuring, Organizing and Reinforcing, the only statistically significant difference between volunteer groups emerged on the Organizing skill. TIP volunteers endorsed engaging in more organizing-related helping behaviors in traumatic situations
than their volunteer chaplain counterparts. To assess the extent to which volunteers engaged in helping behaviors outside of traumatic situations, difference scores were calculated. Both volunteer groups endorsed engaging in helping behaviors to a greater extent in traumatic situations, although TIP volunteers endorsed engaging in Protecting behaviors to a somewhat greater extent than their chaplain counterparts in non-traumatic situations. When volunteers' responses were compared to those of significant others of their choosing, results indicated that volunteer chaplams reported slightly less use of the protecting skills in non-traumatic situations relative to significant others, whereas TIP volunteers endorsed slightly higher use of those same skills in non-traumatic situations relative to both the volunteer chaplains and their 0\V11 significant others. Finally, a series of multivariate analyses were conducted to determine the additive power of the EF A scales and the potential control variables to differentiate between volunteer groups. Expectedly, these analyses indicated that of all the scales, TIP volunteers' higher. endorsement of organizing skills in traumatic situations proved the strongest discriminator. Of all potential
control variables, significant scale differences were found only for volunteer gender which was the strongest predictor of difference between volunteer groups.


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