The Five

There was dedication to the psychosocial cause last night, or should I say this morning? My fellow, and much more prolific, disaster blogger John and I stuck it out until midnight to join the IFRC Psychosocial Reference Centre’s webinar with Stevan Hobfoll and Leslie Snider. John in Melbourne with whiskey and me in Sydney with peppermint tea (in bed). I’d run out of wine about an hour and a half earlier, John is clearly more prepared than I.

For psychosocial / disaster nerds, this was a brush with psychosocial royalty. These people are worth staying up for. Not just the royalty, the 70 or so other psychosocial nerds from all around the world getting all excited on the chat helped keep me awake too.

I’ve read, and recommended, the Hobfoll paper countless times since starting my foray into the disaster world. All you have to do is follow that link and scroll through the citations to get an idea of how influential this work has been. The paper, and ‘the five’ have shaped and continue to guide the way people, all around the world, support psychosocial recovery after all kinds of crises.

The Five are the ‘essential elements’ outlined in the Hobfoll paper, generally referred to as the psychosocial principles. These are:

  • Safety
  • Calm
  • Self and community efficacy
  • Connectedness
  • Hope.

I won’t recount the webinar, because you can read John’s reflections here and there will be a recording of the webinar available soon (I’ll update this page when it’s up). However, here are a couple of things that I’ve been thinking on since last night / this morning.

The five are still relevent. This seems obvious, but the original paper is over 10 years old so I think this is worth acknowledging. The five principles are also incredibly flexible and as broad principles we can apply them in a variety of ways after disasters.

Stevan talked about how the principles can be achieved not only through individual support but also through group, family, organisational, media, political outreach and consultation means. The principles should be used to underpin overall strategies, or as a framework, when planning how to support people. I think this is important to highlight as generally speaking the principles are most widely used in the provision of Psychological First Aid (PFA). While PFA is an important first step in supporting people, it is only part of the broad system that springs into action to support people. However, the system itself is a source of distress and anxiety for people so the more we can embed the five principles into our support system the better people will recover.

Stay nerdy psychosocial friends,

Further reading

Australian Red Cross, 2013, Psychological First Aid: An Australian guide to supporting people affected by disaster

Hobfoll, S et al, 2007, Five essential elements of immediate and mid-term mass trauma intervention: Empirical evidence.

Snider, L 2018, Psychological First Aid: Five year retrospective (2011-2016)

World Health Organization, War Trauma Foundation and World Vision International, 2011, Psychological first aid: Guide for field workers. WHO: Geneva.




  1. And then there were those of us who were all excited about it and… forgot and went to bed faintly thinking ‘is there something I should be doing’ and woke up going ‘doh!’

    Liked by 2 people

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