Crisis intervention
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CRISIS INTERVENTION. Christine S. CNSS 561. ASCA Position Statement.

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Crisis intervention


Christine S.

CNSS 561

Asca position statement

ASCA Position Statement

The professional school counselor is a leader in the successful development and implementation of a response plan with respect to the needs of both students and staff during any school- or student-related incident and serves primarily as an advocate for students’ safety and well-being. The professional school counselor is a pivotal member of a school’s/school district’s crisis/critical incident response team collaborating with other school staff members to implement a comprehensive response to any such incident.

What is a crisis

What is a crisis?

  • An intolerable situation or sudden change in routine that disrupts the normal functioning of a person, group, or organization and requires immediate attention and resolution.

  • Types of crises include: family deaths, natural disasters, war, factory closings, car accidents, school shootings, death of a faculty member, terrorism, bomb threat, suicide.

Characteristics of a crisis

Characteristics of a Crisis

  • Crises affect entire school communities.

  • Immediate physical and emotional needs of people must be identified and addressed.

  • Conditions evoke strong emotions in an affected population such as fear, stress, and anger.

  • Victims are preoccupied with the crisis situation and function in a state of disequilibria.

The role of the school counselor

The Role of theSchool Counselor

  • Knowledgeable about the roles of first responders.

  • Facilitate planning, coordinate response to and advocate for the emotional needs of all persons affected by the crisis/critical incident by providing direct counseling service during and after the incident.

  • Facilitates a continuum of support for students, school staff and victims involved in the incident.

  • Networks with community resources including first responders and is able to provide effective planning and referral for victims of a critical incident.

Crisis response plan

Crisis Response Plan

  • School districts must develop district and building-level crisis response plans to ensure the safety of students and staff during a crisis and mitigate its long-term effects.

  • School counselors should be involved in the development and implementation of a crisis response plan.

  • The final plan should be reviewed with faculty and staff.

Crisis response plan1

Crisis Response Plan

  • Factors to consider:

    • Emotional and Psychological Stress

    • Safety

    • Media

    • Communication

    • Authority

Emotional and psychological stress

Emotional and Psychological Stress

  • Depends on several factors such as the seriousness of the crisis, the number of people directly involved, and people’s reaction to the event.

  • Common responses to trauma: PTSD, anxiety, behavioral reenactment, emotional numbness, nightmares, grief, increased severity or reoccurrence of symptoms, denial, anger, truancy, school avoidance, academic failure.

Common trauma responses

Common Trauma Responses



  • Basic needs of security, shelter, and safety from physical harm must be met.

  • The steps to protect people and secure the school building will vary from crisis to crisis.



  • The media want to keep people informed.

  • School may rely on the media to seek assistance for students and teachers.

  • Balance the public’s right to know with an individual’s right to privacy and protection.

  • Crisis intervention plans should establish clear guidelines for disseminating information and granting access to school personnel.



  • How information is distributed depends on the type of crisis, but general guidelines are necessary to control the flow of information and assure that all announcements are accurate.

  • Inaccurate information or inadequate communication can exaggerate a crisis, hinder attempts to help, and fuel an already volatile situation.



  • Who is in charge?

  • Consider parents’ rights and legal jurisdiction of the police department and other agencies.

  • Need to coordinate decisions and recognize parameters of authority.

    • Establish cooperative channels of communication and authority between schools and the community prior to a crisis (i.e. publicize your crisis intervention plan).

  • Clearly define the first lines of authority.

    • Establish a Crisis Response Team.

Crisis response team

Crisis Response Team

  • Leadership is essential for adequate coordination of services.

  • Composed of principal, school counselors, nurses, social workers, teachers, police officers, and community mental health professionals.

    • Other members might include: office staff and community religious leaders.

Crisis response team1

Crisis Response Team

  • Team Leader: leads meetings and oversees the functioning of the team.

  • Assistant Team Leader: assists in these tasks and is responsible if the team leader is unavailable.

  • Media Coordinator: establishes and initiates a telephone tree to notify team members and other school staff, provides basic information to the news media.

  • In-house Communication Coordinator: screens incoming calls, maintains a phone log, assists the staff notification coordinator, and maintains a phone directory of regional and district-level teams and staff and community resources.

  • Crowd Management Coordinator: collaborates with the school security personnel, local law enforcement, and emergency departments for supervising evacuation and crowd control procedures.

  • Evaluator: conducts readiness checks, designs screening tools, and collects data on crisis team performance.

  • Counselors: collaborates with teachers, staff, and community members to screen students at risk for significant emotional distress; link students and families to resources at school and the community; plan and implement post-crisis counseling strategies such as a Safe Room, classroom discussions, and individual counseling as needed.

Crisis response team2

Crisis Response Team

  • A good team should consider three areas of crisis intervention.

    • Management of the situation.

    • Direct intervention strategies.

    • Post-crisis procedures.

Crisis management

Crisis Management

  • Specific procedures should be in place for different types of crises. These procedures are usually referred to as a Crisis Response Plan, which is included in a handbook.

  • The first individual who observes the crisis should contact the principal.

  • Principal notifies Crisis Team members and provides reporting location.

    • Indicate the nature of the crisis using a color coded signal.

  • Notify the appropriate authorities.

Crisis management1

Crisis Management

  • Assemble Crisis Response Team and agree on a plan of action.

    • Determine the facts.

    • Assess risk to staff and students.

    • Assume designated roles.

  • One crisis team member supervises communication. An immediate message should be relayed to the superintendent and affected individuals (i.e. parents).

  • Plan teacher meeting to provide accurate information about the crisis and tips for leading discussions with students.

  • Manage the crisis headquarters.

Crisis management2

Crisis Management

  • Coordinate with first responders, law enforcement, or mental health professionals.

  • If appropriate, contact the news media. Release only prepared statements with verified information. Maintain phone record.

  • Keep logs of incoming and outgoing calls.

  • Arrange for appropriate facilities and refreshments if a prolonged crisis is experienced.

  • Administrator prepares letter to send home to parents with information about what happened, emotional responses, how they can help, resources, and future plans.

Direct intervention strategies

Direct Intervention Strategies

  • Triage: assess the immediate needs of those in crisis and determine what services to deliver and who will deliver them.

  • Referral: screen students for inappropriate, unhealthy, or unsafe coping responses and make appropriate referrals.

  • Counseling: classroom, group, and individual counseling as needed.

  • Safe Rooms: designated areas in a school where students and staff can go post-crisis for counseling and links to additional support services in the school or community.

  • Memorials: a service or display that conveys the condolences of the school and offers students and staff a forum to express emotions.

Post crisis procedures

Post-Crisis Procedures

  • Debrief with Crisis Response Team.

  • Return to a normal routine.

  • Continue assistance for people in need of services.

  • Determine the appropriateness of special events (i.e. memorial services, fund raisers, etc.).

  • Examine causal and contributing factors.

  • Plan preventive measures to avoid or deal with future crises of this nature.



  • Classroom guidance:

    • Help students identify indicators of stress and danger in themselves and others.

    • Explore developmental concerns and help students develop coping skills.

    • Identify students who need special attention.

  • Individual and Group Counseling:

    • Work on topics such as peer relationships, feelings, assertiveness, grief, and stress.

  • Programs:

    • Peer helpers, parent education, and safety education.

  • In-service Training:

    • Teach skills that help staff increase supervisory ability, manage behavior, listen and communicate, and identify crisis indicators.

In service training

In-service Training

  • Training opportunities offered by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundationand the Crisis Management Institute.

  • Distribute important phone numbers. Learn procedures for contacting rescue squads, fire departments, or other agencies.

  • Agency representatives can present procedures for including these organizations in crisis interventions.

  • A school board attorney can present information about legal and ethical issues, including local policies and how to handle privileged communication in a crisis.

Crisis counseling students in crisis

Crisis Counseling: Students in Crisis

  • Only provide services within the scope of your professional competence.

  • Some questions to guide your decision:

    • Does the situation require informing the crisis team?

    • What steps do you take immediately?

    • Do you have the training and knowledge to needed to effectively counsel in this case?

    • If an outside agency takes the case, how can you provide additional support at school?

  • If you decide to take a case, follow these steps:

    • Assess the nature and severity of the crisis.

    • Establish and implement a plan of action.

    • Follow up and evaluate the outcome.



  • Determine the degree of risk for the student’s welfare and safety.

    • Decide who needs to be contacted.

    • Include other professionals when possible.

  • Use these assessments: interview the student, parent, teachers peers; observation; and screen using formal and informal measures.

    • Some crises do not provide time for assessment.

  • If a student is deemed high risk, bring in all resources and appropriate authorities. Also, inform the principal and notify parents.

  • If a case is referred to outside agency, assess the causal factors that may have contributed to the crisis.

Plan of action

Plan of Action

  • Crisis counseling is direct and action-oriented.

  • Steps:

    • Identify the problem: help student verbalize concerns (What do you want to have happen?)

    • Narrow the focus: identify specific causal factors rather than global feelings.

    • Formulate specific steps for action: decide what the student will do and what the counselor will do.

    • Agree on a plan or contract

    • Refer the student for other services

    • Follow up

Follow up and evaluation

Follow Up and Evaluation

  • When referrals are made, it is your responsibility to contact the receiving agency or professional.

  • If no progress occurs, a different referral may be necessary.

  • Following through with phone calls ensures that the appropriate services are being delivered.

  • Following up with the family demonstrates that the school cares, which encourages students to continue treatment.

  • Following up also helps you gather information on student progress and evaluate the strategies used in a certain crisis situation.

Crisis counseling post crisis

Crisis Counseling: Post-Crisis

  • Children: reinforce natural support systems, monitor/relieve sense of guilt, assure safety, clarify misconceptions, encourage emotional expression, validate and normalize individual reactions, and provide structure.

  • Adolescents: reinforce a sense of purpose and realistic expectations for how event could have been avoided, normalize and elicit peer validation, prevent maladaptive responses linked to helplessness and anger (i.e. plans for revenge or risk-taking), encourage support seeking (peers, parents, other trusted adults).

  • Adults: be aware of adult responses to trauma and help to normalize reactions, to lead processing groups for professionals, and to provide referral information, if needed.

Group crisis intervention

Group Crisis Intervention

  • Introduction: discuss confidentiality, right to withdraw, establish ground rules.

  • Fact Phase: discuss facts about the crisis and participants’ involvement. Dispel and discuss individual experiences.

  • Thought Phase: reflect upon immediate thoughts students had when they experienced or learned about the crisis.

  • Reaction Phase: identify personally most traumatic aspect of event, permit voluntary discussion of emotions, provide validation and support.

  • Symptom Phase: identify possible symptoms, share symptoms and reactions.

  • Teaching Phase: normalize reactions and emphasize that symptoms should gradually get better, elicit examples of coping and positive reactions to event.

  • Closure/Re-Entry: summarize event and review predominant reactions, clarify issues, answer questions; invite participants to articulate what they intend to do to cope; identify supports (peer, family, community).

  • Follow Up: identify children who need follow up care.

How can you be prepared

How can you be prepared?

  • Be informed

    • Learn about techniques used in crises by attending workshops, reading journals, and consulting with other counselors.

    • In-service training.

  • Seek assistance

    • Utilize the services and resources of other professionals.

  • Know your limits

    • Monitor your level of competence and refer when necessary.



Brigman, G., Mullis, F., Webb, L., & White, J. (2005). School Counselor Consultation:  skillsfor working effectively with parents, teachers and other school personnel.  Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 

Brock, S. E., Sandoval, J., & Lewis, S. (2001). Preparing for crises in the schools: A manual for building school crisis response teams (2nd ed.). New York: Wiley.

Canter, A. S., & Carroll, S. A. (1999). Crisisprevention and response: a collection of NASP resources. Washington, DC: National Association of School Psychologists.

Carr, A., (2004). Interventions for post-traumatic stress disorder in children and adolescents. Pediatric Rehabilitation, 7, 231-244.

Crisis Intervention: A guide for school-based health clinicians. (2002). Center for School Mental Health Assistance.

Heath, M., & Sheen, D. (2005). School-based crisis intervention: preparing all personnel to assist. Guilford Press: New York.

Jaksec, C. (2007). Toward successful school crisis intervention. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Johnson, K., (2000). School crisis management: a hands-on guide to training crisis response teams (2nd ed.). Alameda, CA: Hunter House.

Poland, S., & McCormick, J. S. (2000). Coping with crisis: a quick reference. Longmont, CO: Sopris West.

Riley, P. L., & McDaniel, J. (2000). School violence prevention, intervention, and crisis response. Professional School Counseling, 4, 120-125.

Schmidt, J. J. (2004). A survival guide for the elementary/middle school counselor. 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Slaikeu, K. A. (1990). Crisis intervention: a handbook for practice and research (2nd ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Stallard, P., & Salter, E. (2003). Psychological debriefing with children and young people following traumatic events. Clinical Psychology Review, 22, 163-188.

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