School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Education in Community Care and Counseling (EdD)


Richard L. Green


school counselor, ASCA, natural disaster, trauma, COVID-19


Counseling | Education


The purpose of this hermeneutic phenomenological study was to understand and describe the lived experiences of school counselors in South Carolina regarding natural disaster trauma and their perceptions regarding their ability to work effectively with students during and after disasters. The experiences of school counselors regarding their perceptions of effectiveness when working with students both during and after natural disasters prior to this study were unknown. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) Model provided the framework for this study as it outlines the necessary preparation for and execution of a school counselor’s work with students, while Herman’s trauma theory and Halpern and Tramontin’s natural disaster mental health theory provide the grounding regarding trauma. Using these theoretical guidelines and the over-arching question, “What are the lived experiences of school counselors pertaining to natural disaster trauma,” the research sought to answer: (1) How do school counselors feel about their preparedness and ability to help students affected by natural disaster trauma, and (2) How do school counselors feel about working with students of natural disaster trauma as they are currently experiencing or have past personal experience with natural disasters? School counselors who are current members of a school counselors’ association in South Carolina were the target population. A convenience sample of school counselors was interviewed utilizing semi-structured open-ended questions. Interview transcriptions were coded and analyzed for patterns and recurrent themes. Two main themes were evident from the analysis: (1) COVID-19 was a game-changer, and (2) School counselors need to be trauma-informed. Results from this study can be used to inform and shape counselor educator programs and professional development opportunities in the future.