Crisis prevention and intervention in school counseling is a topic that every counselor should know inside out. Crisis prevention is the key to teaching students how to keep themselves safe, while crisis intervention allows the school counselor to take all necessary steps to support a student in crisis. This post will give you all the resources you need to learn about and set up best practice crisis prevention and intervention protocols in school counseling.
Crisis Prevention & Intervention: My Story
I work with a very high crisis population. To give you an idea, we had 255 student crises at my school last year. So, this is what I do and I have a lot of experience with it. Unfortunately, for the last 10 years, we have seen an unprecedented explosion of student crisis across the nation. If you are interested in the causes behind this tragic trend, I highly recommend the book, The Coddling of the American Mind; it really is a must-read for everyone who works or raises children!
Crisis Prevention & Intervention: A Definition
Let’s begin by defining what exactly constitutes a student crisis. Basically we are talking about any situation where a student feels there is/was/may be physical harm to self or harm to another. At my school, we call these the “3 hurts”:
- They want to hurt themselves physically- such as Self injury or Suicidal ideation.
- They want to hurt another physically- such as threats of violence to another student/staff member or having Homicidal thoughts.
- Someone threatens or hurts them or another physically- such as Bullying or CPS issues.
Crisis Intervention: Guidelines to Follow
It is important to have a protocol for handling student crises, that way you are prepared and ready to go when a crisis walks into your office, as it most definitely will if you are a school counselor (SC). You want to be able to focus all your attention on the student in crisis in front of you, and NOT on wondering or researching what you are supposed to be doing in a crisis! So, here are a few basic guidelines to follow in a crisis:
- Talk immediately to the student and the parent/guardian.
- Document, document, document.
- Consult with your administration and co-counselor- do NOT work on a crisis alone.
If you need a crisis protocol, I have included a link below to my School Counselor Stephanie website where you can find a list of steps to follow for each of the different types of student crisis. To access this protocol, click this link and then scroll down to access my “Crisis Intervention Steps and Resources” downloadable.
Crisis Intervention: A Warning about Suicide Screeners/Assessments
It is best to avoid using suicide screeners/assessments in schools. Here are the reasons for this:
- They increase the school and staff liability if a student is hurt.
- A suicide screener or mental health assessment is a clinical tool that should be administered in a clinical environment by a clinician.
- If you administer a schoolwide screener, are you prepared if hundreds of your students make a mental health outcry? Do you have the mental health staff immediately available to thoroughly investigate each outcry and complete all the crisis intervention steps? If not, you make the school system and yourself very vulnerable to a lawsuit if a student is hurt.
Here is an ASCA article on this topic: https://www.schoolcounselor.org/magazine/blogs/november-december-2013/suicide-contracts,-assessments-and-parental-guardi
Instead of using screeners or assessments in schools, it is best practice to communicate the facts that the student tells you directly to their parents/guardians.
Crisis Prevention: Lessons and Groups
Crisis prevention in group counseling and guidance lessons looks very similar. The reason for this is that school counseling interventions typically follow the Rti model:
- Tier 1 Intervention- guidance lessons
- Tier 2 intervention- group counseling
This means that the intensity and the frequency of the intervention support (in this case, crisis prevention), is just increased at Tier 2 group counseling.
The entire student body should see you regularly in guidance lessons, so they know who you are and how to get to you in a crisis. Begin every guidance lesson with the following crisis prevention reminders and information:
- How to see the counselor (request forms for non-emergencies)
- The “3 hurts emergency” and how to get help
- All school staff=mandated reporters
- Tips to prevent the “3 hurts”
Then, teach a quick minilesson on crisis prevention as part of every guidance lesson. Possible minilesson topics could be healthy coping skills, stress and anger management, child abuse awareness, and more! Here is a link to my curriculum of guidance lessons where each one offers crisis prevention activities and info.
Increase the frequency and intensity of crisis prevention at the Tier 2 group counseling level. You can do this by:
- Starting every session with a healthy coping skill (HCS) activity. Here is a link to a Healthy Coping Skills activity, if you need it.
- After the HCS activity:
- Share ideas on how members can apply it in their own lives.
- Process how it can help during difficult or stressful times.
- Discuss how HCS are strategies of crisis prevention.
Practicing mindfulness with the Bounding into Grounding activity from Sending Students Soaring: Trauma-Informed Group Counseling Guide.
NEWSY & NOTEWORTHY
- Book giveaway time!!! School Counselor Side Hustle has everything you ever wanted to know about making extra money on the side, using your counselor or educator skills. For a chance to win a free copy, comment and tag a friend on my Instagram giveaway post at this link. And for TWO chances to win the book, comment and tag a friend on my Facebook giveaway post too, at this link.
- I’ve been busy working on my Teachers Pay Teachers store to get some end-of-year resources up! Check out some of the new resources I’ve added there!
- In a few weeks, I’ll also be uploading an end-of- year counselor task checklist with some accompanying resources. Follow me at this link to know when it is available.
This brings me to the end of my May post. Please leave a comment because I’d love to hear what kinds of crises you are dealing with at your school! You can catch up with me again in June for my monthly counseling post that I share during the first weekend of every month! My June post will be all about tips for interviewing and landing that dream counseling job!!!