The Status of Crisis Preparation in Counselor Education: A National Study and Content Analysis

By Minton, Casey A. Barrio; Pease-Carter, Cheyenne | Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research, Winter 2011 | Go to article overview

The Status of Crisis Preparation in Counselor Education: A National Study and Content Analysis


Minton, Casey A. Barrio, Pease-Carter, Cheyenne, Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research


Many counselors report crisis as a primary presenting concern in their work settings. The need to attend to crisis preparation is highlighted in the new CACREP Standards. To date, the counselor education literature has contained little attention to crisis preparation methods. The authors present results of a study in which they examined crisis preparation practices in 52 CACREP-accredited master's programs and conducted a content analysis of 12 crisis counseling courses. Implications for counseling and counselor education are discussed.

Counselors in all settings report crisis as a primary presenting concern for the individuals with whom they work (Barrio, 2006), and school counselors indicated that they are involved in potentially high-risk situations on a regular basis (Wachter, 2006). Unfortunately, the few researchers who have investigated this topic found that counselors reported preparation for their crisis duties to be inadequate (Allen, Burt, Bryan, Carter, Orsi, & Durkan, 2002; King, 2000; King, Price, Telljohann, & Wall, 1999; Wachter). Allen et al. reported one-third of master's-level school counselors received no preparation for crisis intervention, and 57% felt not at all or minimally prepared for crisis intervention. Similarly, Wachter reported that nearly 30% of practicing school counselors had no training regarding suicide, and nearly 70% had no training regarding school or gang violence. Most school counselors indicated accurate knowledge of suicide risk factors and intervention steps (King, 2000); however, only 38% of school counselors believed they could recognize a student at risk for suicide (King et al., 1999). Although limited to school counselors' experiences, these reports raise concerns regarding the status of crisis preparation in counselor education curricula.

Ethically, a counselor must operate within his or her scope of practice while protecting clients from harm (American Counseling Association, 2005); however, the daily demands of counseling practice and possible inadequacies in the crisis curriculum may require counselors to stretch beyond both comfort levels and scopes of practice on a regular basis. Although practitioner-oriented resources regarding pracidealities of crisis intervention abound, attention to crisis preparation in the counselor education literature is limited, Nearly all attention has been focused on school counselor perceptions of training (e.g. Allen et al., 2002; King et al., 1999; Wachter, 2006), the impact of crisis situations on counselors (e.g. Foster Sc McAdams, 1999), or very specific preparation or supervision methods (e.g. Juhnke, 1994; McGlothin, Rainey, & Kindsvatter, 2005).

The 2009 Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) Standards highlighted the growing need for attention to crisis across the curriculum and include sustained attention to crisis intervention. Professional Orientation/Ethical Practice, Human Growth and Development, and Helping Relationships core areas specify the need for knowledge related to crisis, emergency, disaster, trauma, and/or psychological first aid strategies. In addition, students in all specialty areas are expected to demonstrate understanding of the potential impact of crises, emergencies, or disaster on one's population of interest and knowledge of crisis intervention with one's population of interest. Five of six specialty areas have standards regarding understanding emergency management and crisis response roles within one's setting and ability to assess and manage suicide risk. The Addiction and Clinical Mental Health standards further specify the need for in-depth crisis intervention preparation and assessment skills related to substance use, danger to others, risk for suicide or other self-inflicted harm, and co-occurring mental disorders.

Formal studies regarding the nature and content of crisis preparation is absent in the literature. Uncertainty exists as to whether this silence reflects lack of activity or simply a lack of dialogue. …

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