Crisis Counseling & Intervention Strategies

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

This lesson will explore the important elements of crisis counseling. We will also discuss strategies for intervention. The lesson will end with a short quiz to see what you have learned.

A Crisis in Schools

Think back on your elementary, middle, and high school years. What was the worst thing that happened to you during this period? Maybe your pet died or your parents got divorced. These are two very common crises in the lives of students. A crisis is something that prevents the regular and normal functioning of an individual, group of individuals, or a system as a whole. It may cause emotional upset, stress, physical changes, or even a complete break down in normal operation. Crises is the plural form of crisis.

What was the worst thing that happened at the school you attended? Maybe a fellow student died or there was a natural disaster that impacted your school. These types of crises are not as common as those previously mentioned, but often create big problems for students. School counselors work to support students, their families, and the educational and administrative staff members in the school. A big part of their job is to deal with turmoil and unexpected events that may negatively affect students. These crises vary greatly and must be approached with skill and compassion.

Common School Crises

Earlier, you were asked to think back on something bad that happened to you during your schooling and something that happened to affect the whole school. As mentioned, there are crises that might be considered minimal, while others may be catastrophic. For example, a young kindergarten student may become very upset by being separated from his or her parent for the first time. School counselors understand that this is a big deal in the life of this child and that if not dealt with appropriately could interfere with the success of the student. However, this problem is relatively common and is not likely to result in injury or death.

Other common and non-life-threatening, day-to-day crises might include the death of a pet or loved one, a fight with a close friend, divorce of the parents, moving, a low test grade, being bullied, or perhaps for older students, a breakup with someone he or she was dating. These issues that begin as relatively small problems could easily grow into severe or even life-threatening issues if not addressed. Again, school counselors are highly skilled in identifying these struggles in students and empowering them with the support necessary to overcome the resulting anxiety or sadness.

Sometimes, school crises are more significant and far reaching than those mentioned above such as violence, deadly accidents, drug use, unplanned pregnancy, terminal illness, sexual assault, natural disaster, or even suicide. These issues can devastate the lives of students and the effects may ripple outward to impact the entire surrounding population. School counselors recognize the severity of such issues and must act quickly to minimize the impact on the students. Early intervention is key in all school crises. An intervention is something designed to prevent a crisis from happening or to attempt to solve a problem that has already occurred.

Strategies for Intervention

Please think back on your experiences with school crises once more. What could have been done to prevent those problems? Perhaps nothing could have stopped the crisis from happening, but what might have helped you in the aftermath of it? These are the types of questions that school counselors must ask to prevent and solve crises in schools. These efforts at intervention may happen at the individual level, the classroom level, school-wide, or even within the surrounding community. Let's walk through the different levels of intervention with a specific crisis.

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