Have you ever thought about taking a trauma-informed approach to school counseling? Are you already doing this? Are you wondering what a trauma-informed approach even is? Well, everyone in mental health is talking about trauma these days, and for good reason! According to the American School Counseling Association (2016), 46 million children witness traumatic events in the form of violence, crime, and abuse every year. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) call these traumatic events Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). They list experiencing or witnessing the following as traumatic for a child: abuse, neglect, domestic violence. substance abuse, mental illness, and crime. The CDC goes on to explain how ACEs also limit life potential through lower graduation rates and poor academic achievement (CDC, 2016). Learn more about trauma and find out your own ACEs score here.
A Trauma-Informed Approach to School Counseling: Interventions
Luckily, there are strategies and protocols that help to establish protective factors for children such as self-esteem and coping skills. These practices “buffer the adverse effects of trauma and its stressful aftermath.” The National Child Traumatic Stress Network encourages using various interventions that create protective factors such as: building self-esteem, employing positive coping skills, developing a healthy self-image, and learning how to manage stress and anger (Edutopia, 2017). The counseling program is a particularly effective place to advocate for and implement these trauma-informed interventions! Below I will cover how you can infuse your sessions and lessons with trauma-informed strategies.
A Trauma-Informed Approach to School Counseling: Group Sessions
In the school setting, trauma-informed groups are often psychoeducational which means they help members to gain information and develop skills for challenging situations through education-based techniques. Each session should include various trauma-informed group counseling strategies such as goal work and healthy coping skills. These strategies are also beneficial for any child, whether they’ve experienced trauma or not. Warmth, neutrality, and firmness are important characteristics in all effective counselors, but are especially important in the leader of a trauma-informed group because students of trauma often need an extra safe and structured group setting.
There are so many important topics to cover in the trauma-informed group, but below are a few of my favorites. Many of the topics listed are covered in my Get Your Group On books, published by Youthlight. All of them are also covered through the various resources I provide in my School Counselor Stephanie Teachers Pay Teachers store. For more info on running group sessions, check out my group post here.
- Changing Families
- Boys Empowerment & Conflict Resolution
- Girls Empowerment & Conflict Resolution
- Academic Achievement, Friendship & Social Skills
- Anger Management
- Stress Management
- Grief & Loss
- Culture Explorers
A Trauma-Informed Approach to School Counseling: Guidance Lessons
Trauma-informed guidance lessons should be full of activities that help students to feel safe, to resolve any behaviors that interfere with school success, to eat/sleep/relax healthfully, to manage overwhelming feelings, to connect with others, and to use their strengths in creating solutions for themselves. It is also important to encourage hope and normalize reactions to stress in guidance lessons. These activities can come in many different forms such as role plays, organizational skill minilessons, SMART goal creation, art projects, coping skills application, relaxation strategies, etc. You can check out my yearly curriculum of trauma-informed guidance lessons here. One of the guidance activities I love to use most with kids struggling with trauma is bibliotherapy! Here is a lesson that uses the book, The Wretched Stone, to teach students the importance of supporting each other (a protective factor and healthy coping skill). Below are a few of my favorite books to use in the trauma-informed group or guidance lesson.
A Trauma-Informed Approach to School Counseling: Bibliotherapy List
- A Terrible Thing Happened, by Margaret M. Holmes
- Enemy Pie, by Derek Munson
- Jenny is Scared: When Sad Things Happen in the World, by Carol Shuman
- Hot Stuff to Help Kids Chill Out, by Jerry Wilde
- Letters to a Bullied Girl, by Olivia Gardner
- Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli (English/Edición en español)
- Amigas de Nunca Jamás, por Kiki Thorpe
- Stress Can Really Get on Your Nerves, by Trevor Romain
- Tear Soup/Sopa de Lagrimas, by Pat Schwiebert
- What on Earth Do You Do When Someone Dies?, by Trevor Romain
Newsy & Noteworthy
- Speaking of trauma, I am putting the finishing touches on a new trauma-informed group counseling guide, Sending Students Soaring! I am field testing it with my own students right now and and it should be available in January- follow me at my Facebook and/or Instragram page links to get a real-time update when it is available.
- Well, I can now add SEL video-game developer to my resume!! I am working with my publisher to create a set of interactive social-emotional activities (aka-video games) for classroom Smartboards. The games will address topics such as anxiety, empathy, de-stigmatizing mental health issues, opioid abuse prevention, and more! We hope to have them done and available for order at Youthlight, Inc. by the spring.
- I am so honored to announce that I will be presenting on student crisis at the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) conference in Boston on July 1st at 1:30. If you have an opportunity to attend this conference, do it! Being a part of an ASCA conference is a life-changing opportunity!
That brings me to the end of this November post on trauma. Please leave a comment- I’d love to hear about how you infuse trauma-informed strategies into your counseling program. Catch up with me again in December for my monthly counseling post that I share during the first weekend of every month!
- American School Counselor Association. (2016). The School Counselor and Trauma Informed Practice. Retrieved from https://www.schoolcounselor.org/asca/media/asca/PositionStatements/PS_TraumaInformed.pdf
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). About Adverse Childhood Experiences. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/about_ace.html
- National Association of School Psychologists. (2015). Recommended Books for Children Coping with Loss or Trauma. Retrieved from https://www.nasponline.org/x33507.xml
- National Institute of Mental Health. (2017). Coping with Traumatic Events. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/coping-with-traumatic-events/index.shtml
- Shevrin, Alex. (2017).Trauma-Informed Practices Benefit All Students. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/article/trauma-informed-practices-benefit-all-students