Preparing for the Unexpected

Preparing for the Unexpected

Kristen Ascencao (Liberty University, USA)
Copyright: © 2022 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-9785-9.ch004
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Individuals and school communities are often faced with unexpected events. While some unexpected events bring joy and happiness, others cause fear and helplessness. Stability is crucial during an unexpected crisis, and crisis management planning helps create processes, frameworks, and response protocols, reducing further trauma. According to the National Education Agency (NEA), schools must focus on safety to prevent incidents and a foundation of this work is supporting the community's mental health needs. Crisis management planning is critical to help reduce secondary trauma in the lives of others. School counselors should be leaders when helping their school systems prepare for these unexpected situations. They are seen as an essential resource in planning for crisis situations.
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The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) has several standards that direct school counselor behaviors before, during, and after a crisis (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2016). The ASCA Standards speak to the school counselor’s role as a leader in the school. Leadership is an essential aspect of crisis response, as it helps set the tone for how others will prepare and react to the unexpected. Additionally, school counselors should respond with appropriate strategies to address the specific needs of individuals, groups, or the school community during the crisis response process (ASCA, 2016). The ASCA (2016) Standards also remind school counselors of the limits of school counseling and the importance of referrals to community agencies to maintain the continuum of care.

Many situations can lead to a crisis. According to Erbacher et al. (2015, p. 39), the criteria of a crisis may include:

  • 1.

    High levels of subjective discomfort.

  • 2.

    Individual(s) temporarily unable to act to modify stress.

  • 3.

    Situations overwhelm an individual’s ability to cope or their knowledge of coping strategies.

  • 4.

    Situations or events that an individual perceives as negative, harmful, or threatening.

  • 5.

    Seemingly unsolvable problem.

The National Education Association (NEA) further iterates that a crisis may create a “sense of helplessness, hopelessness, and vulnerability combined with a loss of safety” (National Education Association [NEA], 2018, p. 7). Crises come in all sizes and might include acts of school violence, natural disasters, unexpected death of an individual, destruction of property, hate crimes, pandemic/health crisis, vehicle/pedestrian accident, or any other event that causes a disruption that results in an individual’s inability to regulate stress or utilize healthy coping strategies (NEA, 2018). Regardless of the type of crisis, individuals may experience a type of trauma.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Trauma-Informed: Choosing to recognize an individual’s symptoms and reactions and acknowledging how trauma may impact their life.

Crisis Management: A systematic approach to response and recovery that assists students, staff, and the school community during an unexpected event that interrupts routines, behaviors, and emotions.

Secondary Traumatic Stress: Also referred to as compassion fatigue, secondary traumatic stress results from helping those who have experienced trauma.

Crisis: An unexpected event that interrupts routines, behaviors, and emotions.

Compassion Fatigue: The physical, emotional, and psychological remnants from helping others experiencing emotional distress or trauma.

Trauma: An event that results in one’s inability to regulate their stress in a healthy or safe manner.

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