Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com)
2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
CRISIS COUNSELING: AN OVERVIEW
JONATHAN SANDOVAL, AMY NICOLE SCOTT, AND IRENE PADILLA
University of the Paciﬁc
Psychologists working in schools are often the ﬁrst contacts for children experiencing a potentially
traumatizing event or change in status. This article reviews basic concepts in crisis counseling and
describes the components of psychological ﬁrst aid. This form of counseling must be developmentally and culturally appropriate as well as individualized. Effective intervention can prevent
post-traumatic stress syndrome and facilitate normal mourning processes associated with any losses
experienced. These prevention activities are also discussed. Some children may need resources beyond those that the school can provide, and appropriate referrals can link children and adults to a
variety of treatments such as psychotherapy and medication, also brieﬂy outlined. C 2009 Wiley
Most children and adults are resilient and have ways of coping with stressful events. In fact,
according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH; 2001), recovery from crisis exposure is
the norm. Children usually need minimal assistance from family members, teachers, clergy, or other
caring adults. Others, particularly those with few social supports, enter into a crisis state (Barenbaum,
Ruchkin, & Schwab-Stone, 2004; Caffo & Belaise, 2003; Litz, Gray, Bryant, & Adler, 2002; Ozer,
Best, Lipsey, & Weiss, 2003).
People in crisis are in what Caplan (1964) terms a state of psychological disequilibrium.
This disequilibrium occurs when a hazardous event challenges normal psychological adaptation and
coping. Individuals often behave irrationally and withdraw from normal social contacts. They cannot
be helped using usual counseling or teaching techniques. Nevertheless,... [continues]
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