Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Evaluating a Safe Space Training for School Counselors and Trainees Using a Ramdomized Control Group Design

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Evaluating a Safe Space Training for School Counselors and Trainees Using a Ramdomized Control Group Design

Article excerpt

School counselors need to advocate and act as an ally for all students. Safe Space, a training designed to facilitate competency for working with and serving LGBTQ youth (i.e., LGBTQ competency), has received increased attention in the field of school counseling. However, limited empirical support exists for training interventions such as Safe Space, with only one study to date examining its effectiveness for graduate psychology students (see Finkel, Storaasli, Bandele, & Schaefer, 2003). This study used a randomized pretest-posttest control group design to evaluate and examine the impact of Safe Space training on competency levels of a sample of school counselors/ school counselor trainees and to explore the relationship between LGBTQ competency and awareness of sexism and heterosexism.

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Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth are at a disproportionate risk for depression, suicide, psychiatric care and hospitalization, poor school performance, truancy, running away, substance abuse, and sexually risky behaviors (Stone, 2003; Vare & Norton, 1998; Weiler, 2004). Suicide is the most significant risk, with studies indicating that 20-40% of sexual minority adolescents account for all completed suicides even though this student group represents less than 10% of the adolescent population (see Almeida, Johnson, Corliss, Molnar, & Azreal, 2009; Borowsky, Ireland, & Resnick, 2001; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011; Cook, 1991; D'Augelli et al., 2005; Eisenberg & Resnick, 2006; Garofalo, Wolf, Wissow, Woods, & Goodman, 1999; Gibson, 1989; Goldfried, 2001; Goodenow, 2003; Gould, Greenberg, Velting, & Shaffer, 2003; Haas et al., 2011; Marshal et al., 2011; Paul et al., 2002; Remafedi, 1999; Udry & Chantala, 2002). Research has suggested that sexual minority youth are twice (Russell & Joyner, 2001) to five times (Hatzenbuehler, 2011) more likely to attempt suicide as compared to their heterosexual peers.

School counselors should understand that LGBTQ adolescents are at an increased risk for suicide from the stress, discrimination, isolation, and harassment that these individuals face based on affectional/sexual orientation, not simply due to their affectional/sexual orientation (Kitts, 2005). When considering the multiple risk factors and the unsupportive school environment (Mufioz-Plaza, Quinn, & Rounds, 2002; Palmer, Kosciw, & Bartkiewicz, 2012; Weiler, 2004) that sexual minority individuals encounter, the need for supportive individuals in the school is apparent (Reynolds & Koski, 1994). Accordingly, the American School Counselor Association's (ASCA's) position statement on The Professional School Counselor and Bullying, Harassment, and Violence-Prevention Programs: Supporting Safe and Respectful Schools (2005) states that, as a part of the school counselor's comprehensive program, violence prevention programming needs to include development of cultural competence, prevention initiatives, and intervention strategies. It stands to reason that school counselors are in need of training specific to the LGBTQ population given that school counselors work with at-risk youth and youth who are suicidal (Christianson & Everall, 2009) and LGBTQ youth make up a large percentage of suicidal individuals (Marshal et al., 2011).

Schools are a pertinent location for interventions geared towards assisting sexual minority youth because many peer- and school-related factors are significant sources of symptoms for these concerns (Head, 2010; Teasdale & Bradley-Engen, 2010). Furthermore, 21% and 51% of school counselors in elementary and middle/ high schools, respectively, noted that they encountered a student presenting with affectional/sexual orientation issues (Fontaine, 1998). These statistics are likely underestimated if students avoid those who are not receptive or affirming of sexual minority issues (Goodrich & Luke, 2009), and school counselors may not identify LGBTQ students. …

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