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Supporting School Engagement and High School Completion Through Trauma-Informed School Counseling.

School engagement and high school completion are connected outcomes that remain in the forefront of improvement plans for schools across the United States. Lack of engagement in school has been directly linked to dropping out (Archambault, Janosz, Fallu, & Pagani, 2009; McDermott, Donlan, & Zaff, 2019), and dropping out of school is associated with decreased employment rates, increased involvement in the criminal justice system, and negative health and societal outcomes (Bjerk, 2012; Conger, Conger, & Martin, 2010). As of 2016, approximately 5.2 million Americans 18-24 years old (or 17%) had either not graduated on time or not graduated at all (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2017). Further, according to Porche, Fortuna, Lin, and Alegria (2011), youth who have experienced trauma drop out of school at a significantly higher rate (19.79%) than those who have not experienced trauma (12.97%). With growing awareness of the impact trauma can have on students, schools and school counselors would be remiss not to provide trauma-informed services. Although schools may not be able to prevent experiences of trauma, with increased awareness of what trauma is and how it influences school engagement and high school completion, school counselors can help schools identify and provide relevant trauma-informed interventions and services.

School Engagement and High School Completion

School engagement may be best understood as a multidimensional construct that includes behavioral, cognitive, and affective ways in which a student actively participates in school and cocurricular activities with a commitment to learning and achieving academic goals (Christenson, Reschly, & Wylie, 2012). Examples of school engagement include being on task, actively participating in class, and demonstrating self-regulation (Appleton, Christenson, Kim, & Reschly, 2006). School engagement plays an important role in the process of high school completion and the movement toward being college and career ready (Janosz, 2012). Further, as a construct, school engagement is fundamental to most theories of dropout prevention (e.g., Finn, 1989; Rumberger & Larson, 1998; Tinto, 1975; Wehlage, Rutter, Smith, Lesko, & Fernandez, 1989).

Efforts to identify students at risk of school disengagement or dropping out often focus on variables such as discipline history, academic performance, and attendance (Parr & Bonitz, 2015). Factors that can influence those variables, and ultimately school engagement and dropout, come from several different domains (i.e., individual, family, school, and community). Examining the underlying issues that lead to academic struggles, behavioral challenges, and reduced school engagement can offer school counselors and educators important insight in the development of relevant interventions. Exposure to trauma is one of the underlying issues that may be overlooked in many students but that can have direct effects on learning, behavior, school engagement, and high school completion (Iachini, Petiwala, & DeHart, 2016; Porche, Fortuna, Lin, & Alegria, 2011).

Definition and Prevalence of Trauma

Trauma is defined in many ways and is best understood based upon the context in which it is being discussed. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (American Psychiatric Association, 2013), a traumatic event includes exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence. Briere and Scott (2015) identified trauma more broadly, as any event that is "extremely upsetting, at least temporarily overwhelms an individual's internal resources, and produces lasting psychological symptoms" (p. 10). Thus, when describing childhood trauma, consideration should be given to experiences that may or may not include exposure to death, serious injury, or sexual violence but that do have lasting negative effects on children. For the purposes of this article, we define trauma using the broad definition that includes exposure to or experience of an event or series of events that are frightening or threatening and have lasting effects that are overwhelming and challenge one's ability to cope (National Child Traumatic Stress Network, 2013).

Two other terms capture experiences that would fall within that definition of trauma. Complex trauma has been used to describe both the exposure to and the impacts of multiple adverse events that typically occur within a child's caregiving system during early childhood and that are severe, pervasive, and often interpersonal in nature such as sexual or physical abuse, profound neglect, and community violence (National Child Traumatic Stress Network, 2014). Another term, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), describes a set of deleterious events related to childhood abuse and/or household dysfunction (Felitti et al., 1998).

The types of traumatic events that students experience vary greatly. According to the 2015 National Survey of Children's Exposure to Trauma (NatSECV II), approximately two of the three children under the age of 17 report exposure to different forms of violence, crime, and abuse; more than 10% of these children report exposure to five or more violent experiences within a year (Finkelhor, Turner, Shattuck, & Hamby, 2015). Acts of mass violence, such as the school shootings that occurred at Columbine High School in 1999, Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, are traumatic events that impacted both school-aged children and the individuals who were involved in supporting them. Natural events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and floods also are traumatic events that can affect entire communities.

The most pervasive threat of trauma to children and adolescents, however, is not necessarily the large, single-occurrence, traumatic events, but rather the chronic and/or systemic acts of violence that can happen repeatedly within the home or community (Meyers, 2014). Examples of these kinds of threats, which could be classified as complex trauma or ACEs, might include experiencing homelessness or extreme poverty, living in a violent or unsafe community, or witnessing domestic violence at home. Direct experience and exposure to any of these potentially traumatic events can interfere with a child's ability to succeed in school (Perfect, Turley, Carlson, Yohanna, & Saint Gilles, 2016).

The Impact of Trauma

Exposure to trauma can lead to lasting physical, mental, and emotional harm, whether the child is a direct victim or a witness. Exposure to traumatic events also can negatively impact physiological, psychological, and social development (Morton & Berardi, 2018; Porche et al., 2011) and overall school engagement (Porche, Costello, & Rosen-Reynoso, 2016). That is, traumatic stress disrupts information processing (Van der Kolk, McFarlane, & Weisaeth, 1996), which can lead to social, emotional, and behavioral challenges that interfere with healthy relationships and success in the academic environment. For example, children who are exposed to trauma are more likely to exhibit attachment problems, regressive behavior, anxiety, depression, conduct problems, health-related problems, academic and cognitive problems, and delinquency and to be involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems (Morton & Berardi, 2018). Although many children will adapt and overcome traumatic experiences, others will develop symptoms that negatively impact learning, social and emotional relationships, and behavior (Hodges et al., 2013).

Trauma and Learning

Complex trauma can alter the brain structure and lead to cognitive and developmental issues that challenge academic success in a variety of ways (Meyers, 2014; Walkley & Cox, 2013). For example, changes in the architecture of the brain may jeopardize a child's ability to sustain attention and regulate emotions and behavior (Craig, 2016). Trauma also can hinder the ability to process cause-and-effect relationships, interfere with the ability to organize and remember new information, undermine the development of language and communication skills, and diminish the capacity for creative play, all of which compromise a child's ability to attend to classroom tasks and instructions (National Child Traumatic Stress Network, 2014). Self-control, focus, memory, organization, comprehension, and social skills are all essential foundations of learning, and deficits in any one area can influence a child's achievement in the classroom and ability to fully engage in school.

Trauma and Social/Emotional Health

Babies and young children who have experienced maltreatment such as abuse and neglect are likely to have insecure attachment with caregivers (Morton & Berardi, 2018) and delays in the development of age appropriate social skills. As they grow into school-aged children, these attachment issues and social delays can interfere with success in the social aspects of school. Moreover, traumatic experiences involving lack of physical and psychological safety can make children distrustful of adults and/or peers and unsure of the security of their environment, which may lead to persistent experiences of anxiety and anger (Streeck-Fischer & Van der Kolk, 2000). These kinds of emotional challenges carry over into the school environment, making relationships with peers and teachers problematic.

Trauma and Behavior

Many children who have experienced trauma develop behavioral coping mechanisms in an effort to feel safe and in control (Van der Kolk, 2015). According to Kozlowska, Walker, McLean, and Carrive (2015), physical symptoms such as elevated heart rate and rapid breathing occur when individuals experience stressful or traumatizing events. Further, stress hormones become elevated and neural patterns trigger the body for fight, flight, and freeze responses. Once the danger has passed, the brain readjusts and the body returns to its standard mode of functioning. In youth who have experienced trauma, the stress hormones can spike very quickly and take much longer to return to normal, leaving them highly reactive to external stimuli and defensive of perceived threats, even in a safe environment (Van der Kolk, 2015).

The ability to modulate physiological arousal and the subsequent loss of self-regulation have been linked to self-destructive behaviors, conduct problems, and substance abuse (Van der Kolk et al., 1996). Although both internalizing (e.g., withdrawing, numbness, depression) and externalizing (e.g., acting out, substance use) behaviors may be present as a result of trauma, the externalizing behaviors may be more immediately evident in a school setting. That is, although externalizing behaviors serve a function for the individual, they often are confusing and misunderstood by educators and may include actions that require disciplinary consequences in a school setting. Internalizing behaviors may not be as clearly evident to educators but can be equally problematic in terms of student attendance, emotional stability, and readiness to engage and learn.

Trauma, School Engagement, and Dropout

The connection between trauma, school engagement, and dropout is clear. The cognitive, psychological, social, and behavioral challenges that can occur as a result of trauma are closely related to commonly identified factors that negatively impact school engagement and high school completion (Rumsey & Milsom, 2017). Individual responses to trauma vary, but students who experience significant levels of subsequent psychological distress may be at greater risk of experiencing more severe problems in the school environment and ultimately dropping out of school (Porche et al., 2011). Further, with insufficient or inadequate support, students with learning challenges, low academic achievement, emotional disturbances, and/or truancy (all potential symptoms of trauma) are more likely to disengage and/or dropout of school (Hammond, Linton, Smink, & Drew, 2007).

Schools may not be able to eliminate chronic environmental and systemic stressors and violence; however, mislabeling or overlooking the impact traumatic events have on a child may lead to increased frustration and decreased success for all involved. In many cases, children experiencing trauma symptoms can be mislabeled with attention deficit disorder, oppositional-defiant disorder, and conduct disorder (Perry, 2009), meaning that the underlying concerns related to trauma may never be addressed. Trauma-related difficulty with emotion regulation and attentional processes (Fuller-Thomson, Mehta, & Valeo, 2014; Villalta, Smith, Hickin, & Stringaris, 2018) are often interpreted by teachers as disruptive classroom behaviors and handled with disciplinary actions. School counselors play an integral role in promoting a trauma-sensitive environment by identifying students affected by trauma and providing needed support and resources (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2016).

Trauma-Informed School Counseling Interventions That Support School Engagement and High School Completion

The increase of traumatic events in the United States, along with the growing awareness of the prevalence of exposure to trauma among youth (Finkelhor et al., 2015) and the impacts of trauma on the development of children (Perfect et al., 2016; Walkley & Cox, 2013), have led to a growing national movement to create educational environments that are responsive to the needs of trauma-exposed youth (Overstreet & Chafouleas, 2016). School counselors play a key role in this movement through their position in understanding ACEs, identifying students affected by trauma, and providing support and resources in the school environment (ASCA, 2016). In this section, we review school counselor roles in implementing trauma-informed systemic and targeted interventions and engaging in collaborative partnerships to positively affect school engagement and high school completion.

Systemic Interventions

School counselors can focus on trauma-informed, systemic interventions through activities aligned with the foundation, management, and accountability components of the ASCA (2012) National Model. For example, they can assume leadership roles in ensuring staff have access to professional development related to trauma and school engagement and advocate for trauma-informed policies and procedures that address issues with engagement and dropout. Further, school counselors can collaborate with school leaders to collect and analyze data to inform decisions related to tiered interventions (i.e., Tier 1, 2, or 3) and to monitor the effectiveness of those interventions. We discuss such roles in more detail below.

Before assuming these types of roles, however, school counselors must understand the key tenets of trauma-informed schools. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA, 2014), a trauma-informed organization is one in which everyone (a) realizes what trauma is and how it can affect people; (b) recognizes signs and symptoms of trauma; (c) responds by implementing trauma-informed policies, procedures, and practices; and (d) seeks to resist retraumatization of individuals. Further, key principles that are particularly relevant to school-aged students include promoting a sense of safety, recognizing the importance of family, promoting student empowerment and self-advocacy, and being responsive to cultural needs. In general, SAMHSA recommends a comprehensive and collaborative approach where key stakeholders are knowledgeable about trauma, where organizational policies and procedures reflect that knowledge and a desire to foster safe and supportive environments, and where the unique needs of students affected by trauma are considered.

Focusing specifically on school settings, the National Dropout Prevention Center (NDPC) developed the Trauma-Skilled Schools Model (Gailer, Addis, & Dunlap, 2018), which delineates a process that "guides all personnel and the school as a cohesive unit to acquire knowledge, deliver supports, and master the skills to foster successful outcomes for trauma-impacted students" (p. 17). The three core components of their model focus on school staff developing knowledge of trauma, building a system that fosters student resilience, and acquiring skills to respond to trauma. The second and third components provide direction for implementing, maintaining, and assessing a trauma-skilled plan. School counselors are in a unique position to take a leading role in implementing these components that support systemic dropout prevention interventions in a trauma-skilled manner.

Leading staff development. School counselors can assume a leadership role in coordinating and/or delivering professional development and ongoing trauma-related training. As evident in the SAMHSA (2014) and NDPC (Gailer et al., 2018) models presented above, staff professional development is critical to ensuring school-wide implementation of trauma-informed interventions. All staff members need to understand what trauma is, what it looks like, and how it affects students and families (Cole, Eisner, Gregory, & Ristuccia, 2013). They also need to develop skills to interact effectively with students who have experienced trauma (Gailer et al., 2018).

Although no specific models exist for implementing professional development on this topic, outcome data suggest the components of the NDPC model (Gailer et al., 2018) are important. In two elementary schools in Spokane, WA, teachers were educated about trauma and its effects, learned to view student behavior through a trauma-informed lens, and were provided tools to create a supportive environment to address student misbehavior. Bemiss Elementary saw a 20% decrease in office referrals and 30% decrease in suspensions each year for 2 years in a row, and Otis Orchards Elementary reported a decrease in aggressive behavior from 83 incidents in 2012 to 13 in 2013 (Stevens, 2013).

To help teachers and other school personnel foster school engagement and high school completion through a trauma-informed lens, school counselors could facilitate annual faculty and staff training related to recognizing and responding to signs and symptoms of trauma. Emphasis on academic, social/emotional, and behavioral effects of trauma and the warning signs of school disengagement would support the recognition and identification of students who may need additional support related to coping with experiences of trauma. Further professional development could focus on the use and implementation of data review teams and early warning intervention teams, which typically are established to identify and monitor students at risk for school dropout (Davis, Herzog, & Legters, 2013). These types of trainings could be offered at the beginning of each academic year or at the start of employment for any staff entering midyear, along with suicide, mandated reporting, and other required annual trainings.

Advocating for trauma-informed policies and procedures. While ensuring staff are knowledgeable about trauma, school counselors also can advocate for the implementation of trauma-informed practices. One important role they can assume is to contribute to the development of policies and procedures that convey a safe and supportive environment for students and families who have experienced trauma. Specifically, disciplinary policies should ensure that students impacted by trauma are recognized and supported rather than penalized for behaviors related to that trauma. Suh and Suh (2007) revealed school suspension as a predictor of school dropout, so school personnel must consider the possibility that inappropriate behaviors might be a result of trauma (Van der Kolk, 2015) and consider alternate ways of addressing problem behavior.

Bornstein (2013) provided an example of how a school can successfully implement supportive, rather than disciplinary, approaches to inappropriate behavior. In Brockton School District, school staff collaboratively generated supportive options for students who had difficulty managing emotions, including allowing them to take a walk or listen to music for a short time. They also made intentional efforts to help decrease potential stress associated with school transitions (e.g., bus to school, class to lunch) by providing clear instructions and expectations. These kinds of trauma-informed procedures are examples of how schools can foster student resilience, consistent with recommendations from the NDPC (Gailer et al., 2018).

With expertise in behavioral and social/emotional interventions, school counselors are natural advocates and leaders in developing these types of policies and procedures. Initially, they could identify common behaviors that might be reflective of trauma. Then, in collaboration with school administrators or the leadership team, they could draft policies that include non-punitive options for addressing those behaviors. Moreover, school counselors could lead initiatives to regularly examine school climate, helping identify opportunities to convey an environment of support and safety in line with recommendations from the SAMHSA (2014). Formal use of school climate surveys, such as those available through the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments (2019), could help in this regard.

Collaborating in use of data. The incorporation of surveys to generate data to inform policies and procedures aligns with the final systemic role we envision school counselors assuming in supporting student engagement and high school completion from a trauma-informed perspective. Consistent with the NDPC Trauma-Skilled Schools Model (Gailer et al., 2018), collaboration in the use of data involves the process of collecting and monitoring both schoolwide and individual data, and then using that data to inform interventions. As mentioned previously, common data points that can serve as indicators of potential to dropout of school include disciplinary referrals, course grades, and attendance (Parr & Bonitz, 2015).

School counselors can advocate for the incorporation of universal screening systems by sharing the benefits of those systems with key stakeholders (Donohue, Goodman-Scott, & Betters-Bubon, 2016). In fact, researchers have discussed how using early warning intervention teams to examine school dropout indicators helps ensure a more comprehensive review of students rather than a focus on the most disruptive students (Davis et al., 2013). In other words, this kind of comprehensive approach can help ensure students whose behavior or performance is negatively affected by trauma are less likely to be overlooked. Further, with outcome data maintained over time, early warning intervention teams can collaborate to identify targeted interventions designed with consideration of each student's unique needs (Davis et al., 2013).

School counselors might advocate for universal screening approaches that focus not only on academic, behavioral, and cognitive factors but also on affect or emotion. For example, Donohue, Goodman-Scott, and Betters-Bubon (2016) identified some instruments that could be used for this purpose, including the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (Goodman, 1997), which is a tool to gather information related to peer relationships, emotional symptoms, and prosocial behavior and to assess conduct and attention. Monitoring students more comprehensively by including affective assessment may help provide a better understanding of students' experiences and needs for targeted intervention (Lovelace, Reschly, & Appleton, 2017).

Targeted School Counseling Interventions

A comprehensive school counseling program that aligns with a multitiered system of supports (MTSS) is important in the process of removing systemic barriers and providing interventions that support academic and behavioral success for all students (ASCA, 2018). Through direct and indirect activities implemented as part of the delivery system, school counselors can provide targeted interventions addressing school engagement and high school completion. Implementing Tier 1-3 interventions, in collaboration with other school personnel, can help students develop knowledge and skills to overcome or cope with various trauma symptoms. Using a data-based MTSS, such as Response to Intervention, that includes services to large groups (such as whole school or classroom lessons), smaller targeted groups, and individual students (based on relevant academic, attendance, social/emotional, and behavioral data) can help school counselors support all students, including those who may be experiencing struggles related to trauma. School counselors' collaborative partnerships with families and community organizations also can help ensure that students receive support and resources outside of school.

Tier 1 interventions. School counselors can provide Tier 1 interventions independently through their core counseling curriculum or collaboratively through school-wide programming. Considering the ways trauma can affect student learning, behavior, and social/emotional health, Tier 1 interventions should focus on helping students develop knowledge and skills to overcome associated challenges. For example, coping, stress management, and self-regulation skills could be important for students exhibiting behavioral or social/emotional effects of trauma. Organizational and study skills could be beneficial for students struggling with cognitive effects.

School counselors also can play an important role in identifying evidence-based Tier 1 curricula that would be developmentally and culturally relevant for their school. Although no existing curricula specifically target school engagement and high school completion from a trauma-informed perspective, school counselors could identify and advocate for the incorporation of evidence-based, school-wide curricula that target not only knowledge and skills areas critical to success but also some of the behavioral, cognitive, and/or social challenges experienced by students exposed to trauma. For example, social/emotional programs like Second Step (Committee for Children, 2018) have led to decreased behavioral problems, increased prosocial behavior, and improved emotional regulation and problem-solving (Low, Cook, Smolkoski, & Butain-Ricklefs, 2015). The Student Success Skills (2019) curriculum has been found to help students develop cognitive, social, and self-management skills to achieve success in school (Lemberger, Selig, Bowers, & Rogers, 2015). Those and similar social/ emotional programs align with the trauma-informed practices suggested by the SAMHSA (2014) and NPDC (Gailer et al., 2018) for creating safe and supportive environments that foster student resilience.

Tier 2 interventions. School counselors should consider that students who have been exposed to trauma may have needs that are not met by Tier 1 interventions and may benefit from more targeted academic, behavioral, or social/emotional supports in the school environment. Group counseling can be implemented to improve attendance, academics, social support, or other identified challenges within the school environment. Evidence-based programs, such as the Student Success Skills group model (Webb & Brigman, 2007), Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (Jaycox, Langley, & Hoover, 2018), and Bounce Back (Langley, Gonzalez, Sugar, Solis, & Jaycox, 2015), are group counseling interventions aimed at addressing trauma-related symptoms through psychoeducation, relaxation training, social problem-solving, and cognitive restructuring. They could be implemented by a school counselor alone or in collaboration with other mental health professionals, such as school social workers or school-based mental health counselors.

School counselors also should be aware of other more individualized, evidence-based interventions that could be implemented by a variety of school personnel. Programs such as Teachers as Advisors (Galassi & Gulledge, 1997), Check and Connect (Strand & Lovrich, 2014), and Check-In/Check-Out (CICO; Hawken & Horner, 2003) can be facilitated in a trauma-informed manner that supports school engagement. This might involve including space to identify signs and symptoms of trauma on the initial Check and Connect or CICO referral. The case manager can then work to support the student, keeping in mind the importance of family, relevant cultural needs, and the need for student empowerment and self-advocacy. In fact, CICO has been shown to reduce problem behaviors and increase engagement (Hawken & Horner, 2003; Maggin, Zurheide, Pickett, & Baillie, 2015). Check and Connect has been shown to increase school attendance, school completion, and school engagement (University of Minnesota, 2018). A meta-analytic review of mentoring programs provided evidence of positive effects on emotional/psychological, problem/high-risk behavior, social competence, academic/educational, and career/employment outcomes, especially when implemented with youth from backgrounds of environmental risk and disadvantage (DuBois, Holloway, Valentine, & Cooper, 2002).

Tier 3 interventions. Students who exhibit numerous trauma symptoms and/or dropout risk factors may require a more intensive level of individualized support for academic and/or behavioral problems. School counseling interventions for those who have not responded positively with the implementation of Tier 1 and 2 interventions may include individual counseling, one-on-one mentoring, or referrals to outside agencies for more intensive services (Ockerman, Mason, & Hollenbeck, 2012). School counselors may directly provide interventions or serve in a more consultative or facilitative role at the Tier 3 level. They may take on the role of facilitating effective communication and/or involvement with families. Finally, school counselors can play an integral role in ensuring that awareness of trauma is included throughout the processes and interventions at each tiered level.

Collaborative Partnerships

Consistent with trauma-informed practices supported by the SAMHSA (2014) and NDPC (Gailer et al., 2018), school counselors should ensure their schools are partnering with families and communities to foster increased school engagement and high school completion. High school students report their families as having the greatest influence on their decisions around educational attainment, with 49% attributing family as the greatest influence compared to 8% identifying teachers or counselors as having the greatest influence (Oymak, 2018). In light of families' influence and the correlation between socioeconomic status and school dropout (Stark & Noel, 2015), finding ways to work in partnership with families is imperative for school counselors.

Epstein and VanVoorhis (2010) described and illustrated a method for thinking systematically about six overarching ways to involve external partners (i.e., families and community), with the idea that each approach could directly or indirectly impact specific student outcomes. For example, providing parents with information and tips for helping their children with homework or structuring their after-school time might lead to increased homework completion and more positive attitudes about school, which could lead to increased school engagement and high school completion. Epstein and VanVoorhis (2010) offered numerous citations to research showing positive outcomes (including increased attendance, improved course grades, and decreased disciplinary referrals and suspensions) associated with one or more of the six types of involvement. Below, we describe each type of involvement and offer an example relevant to trauma-informed school counseling.

Type 1: Parenting. This type of involvement refers to helping families gain knowledge to understand common developmental challenges and how to support their students through those challenges. Within this type, school counselors might partner with a community mental health organization to develop a pamphlet or information session to help educate parents about types of experiences that can be classified as trauma, signs and symptoms of trauma in their children or themselves, and ways to seek support. With this information, a parent might know to question if his child's aggressive outbursts could be connected to his wife dying in a car accident, and he would know where he can turn in the school or community for support. With early intervention, this student might be more likely to remain engaged in and complete school than a similar student whose trauma symptoms go untreated.

Type 2: Communicating. Determining when and how to implement and facilitate two-way communication between schools and families is the focus of this type of involvement. School counselors can encourage regular communication between school staff and families by developing a schedule that dedicates time each week for discussions about student concerns and progress in a manner that is most convenient to families, such as in the early evening hours (White & Kelly, 2010). They might even partner with community organizations to conduct these meetings at locations more convenient or accessible to families than the school. With an understanding that not all families have Internet or cell phone access and that language may present a barrier for families' access to information, counselors can work strategically in collaboration with community partners to disseminate information through multiple sources and in multiple languages.

Type 3: Volunteering. For this type of involvement, schools strive to recruit family and community volunteers to support various activities. School counselors could approach this type as a way to support Tier 2 and 3 trauma-informed interventions. By recruiting family and community members as mentors, they can build a contingent of individuals who could be paired with students as needed. Diversity considerations could include recruiting individuals from varied backgrounds (e.g., race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status) and with varied skills and knowledge. For example, one mentor might provide support while also inspiring a student interested in the military, while another might be of benefit to a student who mainly needs emotional support and a positive, stable relationship with someone from a similar low-income background.

Type 4: Learning at home. Similar to Type 1: Parenting, this type of involvement refers to helping families gain knowledge regarding how to help support academic and curricular activities at home. As such, school counselors can proactively consider the type of information to equip families to help students cope with trauma symptoms in the context of school-related activities. Information could be disseminated via brochures or newsletters or through targeted workshops. With this approach, even students and families with no trauma background might benefit from the information because many trauma symptoms, such as anxiety or limited attention span, might be present in students with no trauma history. For example, students who struggle with attention might benefit if their family knew how to help them structure their time or take frequent breaks to stay productive. Other families might appreciate knowing how to help their student handle anxiety related to tests or curricular decision-making.

Type 5: Decision-making. The purpose of this type of involvement is to involve diverse family members on school committees and to seek input from all families on important school decisions. Through Type 5 involvement, school counselors can seek input from families while also helping them become knowledgeable about how school policies and procedures are developed. One way to implement this type of involvement is to include family members on a committee to explore alternative discipline policies, an important consideration in trauma-sensitive schools. With an intentional approach to recruiting committee members from a diverse range of families, input from families could help ensure that culturally sensitive policies and procedures are developed.

Type 6: Collaborating with the community. This final type of involvement, according to Epstein and VanVoorhis (2010), involves identifying community resources that could help support students and their families while working in partnership with community organizations to benefit the greater community. School counselors can take a leadership role in fostering partnerships with community-based professionals and organizations that can offer specialized expertise or assistance. Relationships with local mental health professionals and entities such as law enforcement, refugee support organizations, and domestic violence centers can be useful in generating referral lists and soliciting experts to provide information to school staff and families. Working with community volunteers to set up a classroom volunteering and mentoring program can also provide support to teachers and students.


Academic achievement and healthy social/emotional and behavioral development are shared goals that support successful school engagement and high school completion. With increased awareness of trauma and the impact trauma can have on all of those goals, emphasis on creating trauma-informed educational environments is growing. Through the implementation of trauma-informed systemic and targeted interventions, school counselors can positively affect academic, social/emotional, and behavioral outcomes, and ultimately support increased school engagement and high school completion.

DOI: 10.1177/2156759X19867254

Declaration of Conflicting Interests

The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


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Author Biographies

Amanda D. Rumsey, PhD, is an assistant professor with the Department of Education and Human Development at Clemson University in Clemson, SC. Email:

Amy Milsom, DEd, is a professor and chair of the Department of Human Development and Psychological Counseling at the Reich College of Education at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC.

Amanda D. Rumsey [1] and Amy Milsom [2]

[1] Department of Education and Human Development, Clemson University, Clemson, SC, USA

[2] Department of Human Development and Psychological Counseling, Reich College of Education, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC, USA

Corresponding Author:

Amanda D. Rumsey, PhD, Department of Education and Human Development, Clemson University, 318 Tillman Hall, Gantt Circle, Clemson, SC 29634, USA.

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Title Annotation:Conceptual Article
Author:Rumsey, Amanda D.; Milsom, Amy
Publication:Professional School Counseling
Date:Sep 1, 2018
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