The knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are foundational to prepare counselors-in-training to provide trauma-informed counseling

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Laura Land (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Carrie Wachter Morris

Abstract: Trauma is ubiquitous (Beck & Sloan, 2012; Kilpatrick et al., 2013). Approximately 89.7% of U.S. residents reported experiencing at least one post-traumatic stress level event (Kilpatrick et al., 2013) as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (5th ed.). Furthermore, trauma exposure has been recognized as a high priority public health risk (Beck & Sloan, 2012; Cook & Newman, 2014; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2003). Events including the war in Afghanistan, devastating natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, and the terrorist attacks of September 11th have increased societal awareness of trauma and the potentially adverse psychological and physical consequences of exposure. This heightened awareness is expected to increase the number of trauma survivors recognizing the effects of trauma, and in turn, increase the proportion of individuals seeking mental health services. Since counselors working in various mental health settings will most likely be working with survivors of trauma, it is imperative that their education include the necessary information leading to a foundation of competence (Layne et al., 2014). Although not all counselors who encounter trauma-related issues are expected to have a specialty in trauma work, there is an increased need for trauma-informed care as counselors-in-training encounter trauma-exposed populations in their pre-service training (The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014). Despite the high rates of trauma-exposure among U.S. residents, increased awareness of the effects of trauma, and the growing base of scientific literature, extensive coverage of trauma is not a core component of the standard curricula in graduate counseling programs (Courtois & Gold, 2009; Layne et al., 2014; Litz & Salters-Pedneault, 2008; Logeran et al., 2004). Furthermore, official trauma counseling competencies to inform the education and training of counselors have not yet been identified (Layne et al., 2014; Mattar, 2010; Turkus, 2013). Counselor educators are challenged with integrating the appropriate trauma training and education, while trying to meet the many program goals related to program and institutional accreditation standards. However, trauma-informed training, a holistic, person-centered approach that incorporates the biological, psychological, cultural, and social impact of trauma on an individual (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA], 2014), requires students to possess unique knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Counselor educators must also consider the unique nature of the topic of trauma and the pedagogical approaches they use to effectively facilitate student learning. When competencies or guidelines are lacking within a certain research area, consensus opinion from experts, aids in providing a framework for effective development and practice (Powell, 2003). This study utilized the Delphi method to capture multiple perspectives and explore consensus opinions among experts regarding the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and teaching practices counselor educators deemed as foundational to prepare master’s counseling students to encounter trauma-exposed individuals. Second, by drawing from the collective opinions of counselor educators with expertise in trauma treatment, supervision, and education, the study sought to establish a baseline and move towards the development of a set of guidelines for trauma training and education specific to the field of counseling, rather than adapting or adopting trauma guidelines and competencies developed by other disciplines. The findings of the current study arose out of the belief system of counseling professionals and may serve as an initial framework to support the professional development and training of counselor educators by providing an empirically derived set of trauma education and training guidelines. Findings may in turn aid in the further refinement and implementation of trauma training and curriculum.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2018
Counselor education, Counselors-in-training, Trauma, Trauma-informed
Counselors $x Training of
Mental health counselors $x Supervision
Psychic trauma $x Treatment

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