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Helping others and providing support can make a difference for someone who is having a difficult time. There are simple ways to talk with others that show support. Use the table to identify potential ways to show empathy and care and adapt them to match your personality and relationship.
Remember, there is no perfect support. Often the person just needs to know that someone cares enough to check on them and to listen if they are able to talk about their concerns. Even a short check-in can be helpful in showing someone they are not alone and that others care about them.
Ways To Encourage Discussion
Find an uninterrupted time and place to talk
Show interest, attention, and care
Let them talk without interruption as much as is possible
Be free of expectations or judgments
Just be with them and let them know they're not alone
Share your own ways of dealing with or reframing similar experiences
Help them brainstorm solutions and weigh choices to make decisions
Help them think through what meaning their experiences hold for them
Remind them of their strengths / values
Offer to talk any time they need, as is possible
"It sounds like…."
"From what you're saying, I can see how you would be…."
"It sounds like you're saying…."
"You seem really…."
Make sure your reflections are correct by using sentences like:
"Tell me if I'm wrong… it sounds like you…."
"Am I right when I say that you…."
"No wonder you feel…."
"It sounds really hard…."
"It sounds like you're being hard on yourself…."
"It is such a tough thing to go through something like this."
"I'm really sorry this is such a tough time for you."
"We can talk more tomorrow if you'd like…."
Empowering Comments / Questions
"What have you done in the past to make yourself better when things got difficult?"
"Are there any things that you think would help you to feel better?"
"Maybe there is a different way of looking at this that would help you move forward or have less guilt/shame/anger…."
"People can be very different in what helps them to feel better. When things got difficult for me, it helped me to…. Would something like that work for you?"
Table 2 adapted from Brymer, M., Jacobs, A., Layne, C., Pynoos, R., Ruzek, J., Steinberg, A., Vernberg, E., & Watson, P. (2006). Psychological First Aid: Field Operations Guide, 2nd Edition. National Child Traumatic Stress Network and National Center for PTSD. Available on: www.nctsn.org and www.ptsd.va.gov
Get help for PTSD
If you need help right away:
Call 1-800-273-8255 Press "1" if you are a Veteran.