Crisis-Specific Peer Supervision of School Counselors: The P-SAEF Model

By Wachter, Carrie A. PhD, Ncc, Acs; Minton, Casey A. Barrio PhD, Ncc et al. | Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research, Fall/Winter 2008 | Go to article overview

Crisis-Specific Peer Supervision of School Counselors: The P-SAEF Model


Wachter, Carrie A. PhD, Ncc, Acs, Minton, Casey A. Barrio PhD, Ncc, Clemens, Elysia V. MAEd, Ncc, Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research


School counselors are called upon to respond to an array of crisis situations involving the potential for imminent harm. Many school counselors report inadequate preparation for crisis intervention (Allen et al., 2002; King et al., 1999), and few school counselors participate in clinical supervision (Page et al., 2001). P-SAEF, a practical peer supervision model for school counselors who work with students at risk for imminent harm, is presented, and recommendations for implementation are provided.

As leaders in crisis response, school counselors must develop and implement plans that meet students' immediate needs through short-term counseling, referrals, and con- sultation with stakeholders (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2000, 2005). Although school counselors have a responsibility to practice within their individual competencies (ASCA, 2004) there appears to be a substantial disconnect between preparation and expectations faced in the schools. Allen and colleagues (2002) found that 35% of school counselors reported receiving no training in crisis intervention in their graduate education, and 57% of school counselors surveyed felt either not at all or minimally prepared for crisis intervention. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] (2006) estimated that 16.9% of high school students seriously considered attempting suicide and 8.4% of students attempted suicide in the past year, King, Price, Telljohann, and Wah, ti 999) reported that only 38% of school counselors believed they could recognize a student at risk for suicide. Wachter (2006) also found that counselors in school settings reported similar experiences with suicidal students; nearly 30% reported no master's level training on issues of suicide.

Just as suicidality is anything but rare in a school setting, the CDC (2006) reported that over 18.5% of high school students had carried a weapon in the past month and over one- third had been in a physical fight in the past year. Considering that 91 % of public secondary schools, 90% of public middle schools, and 60% of public elementary schools reported acts of violence over a twelve month period, the vast majority of school counselors will be faced with violence on school grounds (DeVoe et al., 2004). Unfortunately, nearly 70% of school counselors reported having no training in school violence or gang violence (Wachter, 2006).

Crisis situations have a powerful effect on clinicians of all experience levels (Kleespies, Niles, Mori, & Deleppo, 1998), and even experienced counselors desire additional preparation and support when faced with crises (Mathai, 2002; Tracey, Ellickson, & Sherry, 1989). Regardless of prior preparation and experience, crisis specialists stress the importance of education, debriefing, and supervision on issues involving imminent harm (e.g., Kinzel & Nanson, 2000; Westefeld et al., 2000). Although participation in supervision may remedy lack of preparation, ensure client safety, and support the well-being of counselors, low rates of school counselor participation in clinical supervision (Page, Pietrzak, & Sutton, 2001) present unique challenges for ensuring school counselor competence. In the following pages, we explore literature regarding supervision of school counselors and present an innovative model for crisisspecific school counselor peer supervision.

Supervision of School Counselors

Clinical supervision is important for the professional development of school counselors (e.g., Miller & Dollarhide, 2006; Page et al, 2001; Wood & Rayle, 2006). Participation in supervision enhances client safety, counselor effectiveness, and counselor well-being; not participating in supervision may negatively impact school counselors' use of essential helping skills (Crutchfield & Borders, 1997; Peace, 1995). Despite the substanrive benefits of supervision, the of school counselors who participate in clinical supervision remains very low (Page et al. …

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