Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Perceptions of School Counselors Surviving a School Shooting

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Perceptions of School Counselors Surviving a School Shooting

Article excerpt

The fire alarm goes off in a local middle school. In accordance with the fire alarm drill protocol, students and faculty exit the building. Two current students have positioned themselves at a distance and begin unloading a barrage of gunshots in the direction of the students and faculty. Not all survive and many are wounded. Eventually, the shooters are captured, but the school counselors who experienced this event are left asking themselves: What is my role in this crisis?

The American School Counselor Association's (ASCA) position statement on school counselors and safe schools and crisis response (2013), ASCA Ethical Standards (2016), and the ASCA National Model (2012) offer expectations, standards, and competencies regarding the critical significance of school counselors in crisis situations. The ASCA position statement on school crisis (2013) suggests prevention and preparedness practices for school counselors that include activities such as "individual and group counseling" and "advocacy for student safety" (p. 49). The ASCA Ethical Standards (ASCA, 2016) makes clear that school counselors work to address "serious and foreseeable harm" (p. 2).

School counselors learn crisis counseling standards and expectations in graduate school from counselor educators and supervisors (Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, 2016). However, according to Watkins Van Asselt, Soli, and Berry (2016), counselor educators and supervisors often do not feel adequate to teach on crisis topics due to lack of research, training, and resources. Although Watkins Van Asselt et al.'s (2016) study included a small number of participants, other studies support the notion that many school counselors leave their education programs feeling unprepared to handle crises. For instance, in 2012, Wachter Morris and Barrio Minton conducted a study showing that new counselors felt that the crisis training they had received in graduate school was minimal in comparison to real-life expectations. Furthermore, in a study by Allen et al. (2002) with more than 235 school counselors, only 18% felt well prepared or very well prepared to deal with a crisis. More recently, Sawyer, Peters, and Willis (2013) found that after taking a crisis course that included researched theory and practice, beginning school counselors perceived that self-efficacy increased in crisis counseling. It is safe to say that preparing school counselors to conduct crisis counseling is important but also challenging.

Crisis counseling models have shown some effectiveness for training counselors. Some models are based on the idea advocated by Sawyer et al. (2013) that well-researched theory and evidence-based practice serve as ideal training models for school counselors. For instance, D'Andrea (2004) provided school-based violence training for school counselors and staff at the University of Hawaii, using the Hawaii School-Based Violence Prevention Training (HSBVPT) model (Daniels, Arredondo, & D'Andrea, 1999). D'Andrea's (2004) findings indicated that the training was effective, but it was not focused solely on the role of the school counselor; it included only eight school counseling participants among more than 60 teachers. The training also focused more on preventing a violent crisis than responding to one.

Another research-informed model is the preparation, action, recovery (PAR) conceptual framework developed by McAdams and Keener (2008). These authors combined phase progression, coordination of mental health interventions, and structured support to create a conceptual framework for crisis survivors in general. Unlike the HSBVPT model, the PAR model is more focused on responding to a crisis than preventing one. However, the framework is not specific to the role of the school counselor.

The Prevent, Reaffirm, Evaluate, Provide and Respond, Examine model is another research-informed model (Brock et al., 2009). Three basic assumptions form the basis of this model: (a) Prevention is critical, (b) skill sets are most effective in a multidisciplinary approach, and (c) schools are unique. …

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