Skip main navigation

Establishing effective communication

In this article we provide guidance on how to communicate and listen effectively in your role as a PFA practitioner.
Lady on mobile phone smiling
© Public Health England

Effective communication and learning how to listen is an important part of PFA.


Understanding how to listen will help you communicate better. Listen refers to how the helper:

  • begins the conversation
  • pays attention and listens actively
  • accepts feelings
  • calms the distressed
  • asks about needs and concerns
  • helps those in distress find solutions to their needs and problems

Opening and Closing conversations

How you open and close a conversation will help to have a more meaningful conversation with those you are supporting.

The following steps can be followed:

  • Introduce yourself and your role.
  • Be aware that wearing PPE or social distancing may impact the conversation – for example if they cannot see your face properly or your voice is muffled, or you have to stand further away than is normal. Creative approaches such as using photos of yourself may help.
  • Check that the person you are helping is happy and able to talk. Check that they have a conversational level of English and consider using an interpreter if required.
  • Establish expectations around confidentiality and the length of the interaction: you may suggest a review after an initial conversation.
  • Agree the duration of the call or visit.
  • At the end of the contact agree an action plan and any follow up with likely timescales.

If you are performing PFA as part of your normal duties these steps may be incorporated into your normal activities.

© Public Health England
This article is from the free online

COVID-19: Psychological First Aid

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education