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CRISIS COUNSELING
IN MIDDLE AND HIGH
SCHOOLS:
ROLE OF THE SCHOOL
COUNSELOR
Presenters
Professor Robert Stevenson, Ed.D.
Professor Arthur McCann, Ph.D.
Mercy College
School of Behavioral and Social Sciences
Graduate Counseling Programs
PRESENTATION OBJECTIVES
Define a crisis
 Contrast personal and group crisis
 Review the lifecycle of a crisis
 Identifying the counselor’s role in
assisting those dealing with personal
crises
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A CRISIS
A crisis is a turning point.
 It is often marked with instability or danger and
can lead to a decisive future change
 That change can be for better or for worse.
 It can also be a dramatic upheaval in a
person’s life.
 It is seen by those involved as serious –
needing an immediate decision or action.
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GENERAL TYPES OF CRISES
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PERSONAL – A perception or experiencing of an
event or situation as an intolerable difficulty
that exceeds the person’s current resources
and coping mechanisms.
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GROUP – A situation that holds the potential for
either disaster or opportunity.
REACTION TO PERSONAL CRISIS
Individuals facing a crisis may:
 Cope by themselves and grow stronger from the
experience
 Survive the immediate crisis, but block it from
consciousness, possibly leading to future
problems
 Break down from the crisis – putting life on
hold unless they receive immediate assistance
LIFE CYCLE OF A CRISIS
Prepare
Mitigate
Respond
Recover
CRISIS CHARACTERISTICS
Every crisis is complicated
 The disequilibrium of crisis provides impetus
for change (+/-)
 Brief therapy can help – and is appropriate in
school, but it treats symptoms, not the cause(s)
 Choice is essential
 Crisis is “universal” because no one is immune.
 Crisis is time limited (6-8 weeks).
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PLANNING FOR A CRISIS
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Be prepared to ask the right questions (what,
where, when, how and, in some cases, why)
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Identify the precipitating event(s)
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Establish goals and operational definitions
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Create a crisis response plan with clearly
identified steps
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Create and implement response protocols
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Begin ongoing evaluation and mitigation
A
ASSIGNING “MEANING”
It is important for a counselor to understand the
meaning a person assigns to an event or an emotion.
These meanings may be seen as any of the following:
• A Challenge – to be overcome
• A Loss – making change difficult or impossible
• A Gain – a sign that one is working to maximum ability
• A Punishment – penance for not doing something right (or for doing
something wrong) in the past
• A Reality – to be assessed and dealt with so that it can be reduced to an
acceptable level
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ASSESSMENT “A–B–C”
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Affect – abnormal or impaired affect is a sign of
disequilibrium
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Behavior – immobility impairs behavior so doing
something concrete helps forward movement

Cognitive state – has the crisis been made
worse by rationalizing, exaggerating or faulty
belief(s)
ASSESSMENT TRIAGE

Affect:
Anger/Hostility
Fear/Anxiety
Sadness/Melancholy

Behavior:
Approach
Avoidance
Immobility

Cognition:
Transgression (present)
Threat (future)
Loss (past)
CRISIS INTERVENTION MODELS
The chosen model needs to assess and
address:
 Equilibrium – disequilibrium creates a need
to regain stability
 Cognition – faulty thinking may need to be
changed
 Psychosocial Transition – internal and
social change may create a need for new
internal coping mechanisms that are
adequate to the demands of the crisis
SIX STEP MODEL OF CRISIS INTERVENTION
Assessing (done throughout counseling)
 Listening 1. Define the problem and set goals
2. Ensure client safety
3. Provide support
 Acting
4. Examine alternatives
5. Make plans
6. Obtain commitment and take action
A
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LISTEN FOR AND USE:
Open-ended questions
 Closed-ended questions
 Statements showing owning feelings
 Disowned statements
 Statements conveying understanding
 Value judgments
 Positive reinforcement
 Empathy, genuineness, acceptance
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A
TAKING ACTION:
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See individual differences
Assess yourself
Acknowledge client safety
Provide client support
Define the problem and set goal(s)
Consider alternatives
Plan action steps
Use client coping strengths
Attend to client’s immediate needs
Use referrals (when appropriate)
Develop and use networks
Get a commitment to action from the client
A
YOUR ROLE AS A COUNSELOR:
Listen to concerns
 Assess safety needs of the client
 Make owning and assertive statements about
your role
 Deal with current client functioning concretely
and objectively
 Speak clearly, in the present, about the problem
 Take immediate, direct action to restore mobility
and equilibrium

SCHOOL COUNSELOR INTERVENTIONS WITH GRIEVING STUDENTS
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Be proactive in providing help.
Encourage student to draw support from friends and family.
Encourage self-care (exercise, rest and healthy diet.)
Listen without judging.
Encourage talking about loss, while being mindful of the stages of grief
(denial or shock, fear, anger, guilt, depression or sadness, and
acceptance.)
Invite sharing of memories.
Encourage talking about loss. (Externalizing inner “pressure.”)
Invite sharing of memories.
Encourage resumption of normal activities.
(Source: List 7.18 Dealing with Grief and Loss in The School Counselor’s Book of Lists, second
edition)
COUNSELOR’S ROLE IN HELPING TEACHERS WHEN A STUDENT DIES
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When speaking with bereaved parents, be supportive, only give suggestions when
requested, ask what they would like shared with other students.
Offer to visit class to tell the students what happened.
Prepare the teacher (or offer to collaborate) to tell classmates.
Match information with the students’ developmental ability to understand.
Always give the message that life is precious and precarious.
If death is by suicide, do not glorify and do not try to explain why it happened.
Be truthful, honest and accepting.
Coordinate follow up steps with teacher and administrator.
Inform the faculty in the way the parent(s) or guardian(s) desires [if possible].
Pay special attention to siblings and special friends of the deceased child.
(Source: List 7.20 Dealing with Grief and Loss in The School Counselor’s Book of Lists, second edition)
SURVIVING AND MOVING ON
Help the student to:
 Accept the loss(es).
 Be aware of feelings
 Externalize emotions.
 Draw on personal beliefs.
 Understand negative coping
 Utilize every resource (because there is seldom
one correct answer to most of the questions
that arise)
RECENT LITERATURE FROM ASCA
The most recent edition of School Counselor
(September/October, 2011, Vol. 49, No. 1)
entitled: Crisis in the Schools: Natural
Disasters, Terrorism, Violence and Death –
Help Students Prepare, Adjust and Move on.
 This issue contains five articles that identify
practical and worthwhile steps that School
Counselors can take to help in times of crisis.
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A
SUPPORT TRAUMATIZED STUDENTS
BY ROBIN H. GURWITCH, PH.D. AND DAVID J. SCHONFELD. M.D.
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Help students learn to address and deal with traumatic incidents with a few key
actions.
1. Initiate the Conversation.
2.Validate Feelings and Experiences.
3. Answer Questions and Correct Misinformation and Misattributions.
4. Educate Students and Caregivers about Common Reactions.
5. Help Students Identify Positive Coping Strategies.
6. Identify Triggers or Reminders.
7. Encourage return to Extracurricular Activities They enjoyed before the trauma.
8. Encourage Activities That Promote help and Healing
9. Maintain Regular Communication with the student’s Teachers and Caregivers.
10. Be Available for the Immediate, Short-, and Long-Term after a Trauma or Loss.
A
OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE OF SCHOOL COUNSELOR
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Kids Supporting Kids by Kathleen S. Tillman, Ph.D. and Jonathan P. Rust – Learn to implement
a 10-stage model for running grief and loss groups in your school.
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Youth in Crisis by Jeannine R. Studer, Ed.D. – By using a problem-solving model, you can help
students move on from the traumatic incidents in their lives and learn to effectively cope with
any that may come down the road.
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Childhood Observers of Domestic Violence by Kenneth W. Elliott, LMFT, CCDVC and Judith
Elliott, LCSW, ACSW – Children exposed to domestic violence often exhibit reactions similar to
physically abused children. Discover guidelines for helping these children to cope.
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Five Steps to Prepare – by Cheri Lovre - Everyone in the building has a role to play in the event
of an emergency. Make sure you’ve done your part to ensure your school building and students
are ready for emergency responses.
A
PREVENTING “COMPASSION FATIGUE”
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Compassion - A “feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is
stricken by suffering or misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to
alleviate the pain or remove its cause.” (Webster’s, 1989, p.229).

Compassion Fatigue - (aka, secondary traumatic stress, nearly identical to
PTSD, vicarious traumatization) - This is similar to emotional contagion,
“…defined as an affective process in which an individual observing another
person experiences emotional responses parallel to that person’s actual or
anticipated emotions.” ( Figley, 2002)
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Compassion Satisfaction – Stamm (2002) has identified this as a
protective factor, a positive side of compassion that counterbalances the
negative. She developed a Compassion Satisfaction and Fatigue (CSF)Test
to help estimate risk of burn out and compassion fatigue.
A
PREVENTING “COMPASSION FATIGUE” (CONTINUED)
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Develop our capacity for humor.
Gain a sense of achievement and satisfaction from setting
achievable work standards.
Acquire adequate rest and relaxation.
Develop and regularly incorporate an array of stress
reduction methods into our repertoire.
Let go of work.
Apply Critical incident stress debriefings and stress
management (CISD/M ) plans and actions as needed when
crises arise.
(Source: Treating Compassion Fatigue edited by Charles R. Figley, 2002)
A
RESOURCES
Blum, D.J. and Davis, T.E. (2010). The School Counselor’s Book of Lists, 2nd edition, San
Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) http://training.fema.gov/IS/
Figley, C.R., ed. (2002). Treating Compassion Fatigue, New York , NY: Brunner-Routledge.
James, R. K. and Gilliland, B. K. (2004). Crisis Intervention Strategies 5th edition,
Brooks/Cole.
Stevenson, R. G., ed. (2002).What will we do? Preparing the school community to cope with
crises, 2nd edition, Baywood Publishing.
Stevenson, R.G. and Cox, G. ed. (2007). Perspectives on Violence and Violent Death
Amityville, NY: Baywood Publishing.
EMPOWERING OBJECTS
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AMULET – an object (such as a horseshoe) that
wards off evil.
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TALISMAN- an object that enables the one who
possesses it to accomplish great deeds.
In some cases, one object may serve as both
amulet and talisman.
FILLING YOUR BAG OF TRICKS
Explaining “change”
A Lens
Overcoming obstacles
Levitation
Dealing with feelings
Bulletin Board / Tennis
Coping with stress
A Worry Stone
Creating a Safe Place
Ernie, Bert & Theodore
Overcoming Helplessness
Candy Bear
Words as Talisman
Quotation Posters
Giving form to fear and coping How Big Is Your Dragon?
OPERATIONAL DEFINITIONS

CRISIS – a serious or decisive state where an
action will have positive or negative
consequences.

CRISIS COUNSELING – a process that has as its
focus the emotional ramifications of a crisis.

CRISIS INTERVENTION – steps to address the
immediate problem using a variety of resources.

CRISIS PREVENTION – a process for reducing acute,
emotional upset. This may involve examination of coping
behaviors, resources and developing assessment skills.

CRISIS PREPARATION – A plan of development and training
that develops positive attitudes and skills among all
members of a school community.

CRISIS POSTVENTION – process for “damage” assessment
and recovery.

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