Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School Counselors' Preparation for and Participation in Crisis Intervention

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School Counselors' Preparation for and Participation in Crisis Intervention

Article excerpt

Due to the recent focus on incidents of school violence, there has been a heightened awareness of the need for effective crisis intervention in public schools (American Psychological Association, 1993; Canter & Carroll, 1999; Cunningham & Sandhu, 2000; Poland, 1994; Riley & McDaniel, 2000). Although there are differing opinions of what actually constitutes a crisis, Caplan (1964) specified key factors that continue to define the term. During a crisis, individuals are in a state of "psychological disequilibrium" (Caplan, p. 53) and are unable to escape or effectively deal with the problem at hand. Similarly, Slaikeu (1990) stated that a crisis creates "a temporary state of upset and disorganization, characterized chiefly by an individual's inability to cope with a particular situation using customary methods of problem solving" (p. 15). Crisis in the context of a school, although similar to Caplan's (1964) and Slaikeu's (1990) definitions, has unique features because of the school's social structure and the sense of community within the school. Johnson (2000) explained that a school crisis "brings chaos" that "undermines the safety and stability of the entire school" (p. 18). Johnson also stated that a school crisis exposes children and staff to "threat, loss, and traumatic stimulus" and undermines their "security and sense of power" (p. 3). Specific types of crises affecting the school community include suicide; death, grief, and loss; school shootings; gang activity; natural disasters (earth quakes, hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes); drug abuse; sexual and physical abuse; and medical emergencies (Brock, Sandoval, & Lewis, 2001; Johnson, 2000; Pitcher & Poland, 1992). Although this list is by no means complete, these examples are incidents that threaten the security and stability of a school community.

During a crisis, immediate support facilitates recovery for the students and the school community (Johnson, 2000; Poland & McCormick, 2000). Even though there is some debate as to who is primarily responsible for assisting with crisis intervention (Brock et al., 2001; Johnson), the American School Counselor Association's (ASCA, 2000) position statement provides direction in defining the school counselor's role. Based on this statement, "the professional school counselor's primary role is to provide direct counseling service during and after the incident" (ASCA), school counselors are expected to serve students and school personnel during times of crisis by providing individual and group counseling; consulting with administrators, teachers, parents, and professionals; and coordinating services within the school and in the community (ASCA, 1999, 2000; King, Price, Telljohann, & Wahl, 2000; Riley & McDaniel, 2000; Smaby, Peterson, Bergmann, Zentner Bacig, & Swearingen, 1990). Considering the recent emphasis placed on the need for effective crisis intervention and the profession's self-defined role, it is important to determine if the school counselor's preparation aligns with the demands of the profession (Lockhart & Keys, 1998; Perusse, Goodnough, & Noel, 2001). It is also prudent to evaluate feedback from school counselors, taking into account the recency of their graduation. If counselor educators are increasing their emphasis on the knowledge and skills required for effective crisis intervention, practitioners' responses should reflect this trend.

In addition to pre-service preparation for crisis intervention, continuing professional development activities provide another avenue for developing expertise in responding to crises (Brock et al., 2001; Goldberg & Governali, 1995; King & Smith, 2000; Riley & McDaniel, 2000). Information related to crisis intervention is available through school district in-services, community and national crisis training programs, professional conferences, journal articles, books, and video training. The extent to which school counselors are seeking to improve their crisis intervention skills should be reflected in their continuing professional development activities. …

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