The School Counselor’s Role in Providing Trauma-Informed Care

When many adults hear the word trauma, their minds can go to the most extreme situations—fleeing persecution in a dangerous country or being trafficked across borders. While those situations can undoubtedly be harrowing, trauma takes many forms and is actually much more common than many people think. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than two-thirds of children reported experiencing at least one trauma by the age of 16.

School counselors can improve the overall school system by also employing trauma-informed practice. This includes identifying students who may show signs of trauma; educating staff, families and students about the effects of trauma; and implementing positive behavioral interventions that improve social and emotional learning, as described in the position statement of the American School Counselor Association.

In an article for the Child Mind Institute, psychiatrist Nancy Rappaport, MD, explains that it’s also important to recognize that children and adolescents who experienced trauma may have difficulty trusting adults, particularly if other adults contributed to that traumatic event in some form.

“These kids don’t have the context to ask for help,” says Rappaport, who is also a school consultant and associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “They don’t have a model for an adult recognizing their needs and giving them what they need.”

In those situations, school counselors and other school staff should cultivate relationships by offering support in an affirming way. Rappaport says to first work with students on acknowledging and identifying emotions. Understanding that a school counselor or other staff member “gets it” will enable students to more appropriately express their emotions.

This information is from a blog on Online Counseling Programs: Addressing Students’ Triggers: Tips for Trauma-Informed Classroom Design