Following a trauma, your major task is to tend to the needs of traumatized students and other school personnel. 18 You can do this by building alliances with teachers, staff, parents, and, of course, students. As a school counselor, you can explain how to minimize the damaging effects of trauma; how to keep communication open; how to decrease exposure to graphic media coverage and other potential traumatic reminders; and how to recognize and differentiate between "normal" reactions and chronic symptoms of trauma.
Helping students and other school personnel deal with their immediate reactions to an extreme stressor may shorten the duration of trauma-related symptoms and prevent the development of PTSD. When counseling students shortly after trauma exposure, your goal should be to prevent the occurrence of PTSD by
- educating them and their families about trauma and its impact
- normalizing their trauma-related reactions
- providing guilt relief and an environment for emotional expression
- helping them develop strategies to control their intrusive thoughts and images
- teaching them the skills they need to control physical and emotional symptoms that accompany intrusive thoughts and images
- promoting a sense that they can function safely at school, at home and in their communities 19