The immediate aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary mass murder included on-site counseling by the National Association of School Psychologists’ national emergency team. Yet, counseling for trauma, and particularly for grief, has only recently been examined for efficacy. What measures can parents, professionals, and society take to make this type of event less traumatic, and less likely to occur again?
Mass Murder Aftermath: The Role of Professionals
In the aftermath of a mass murder event, such as the one at Sandy Hook Elementary, the National Association of School Psychologists has a response team of specially trained counselors who are sent to the scene.
According to the Online Wellness Network, while the “majority of people who survive loss and trauma do not go on to develop PTSD. Some remain overwhelmed.” Trauma counseling is an attempt to circumvent that feeling of being overwhelmed and to help ”reintegrate” the self.
Providing counseling for people who have yet to develop problems, or whose reaction to loss is in the normal range, is somewhat controversial. The Online Wellness Network cites a 2007 American Psychological Association (APA) study that found that those with “ ‘relatively normal bereavement reactions’ were said to be at risk of a worse outcome after receiving grief counselling.”
Counselling causing harm, perhaps by getting in the way of normal grieving, is termed iatrogenesis. In 2008, Psychology Today published an article that concluded that for grief, “counseling helps; unless it doesn’t” and suggested that those with the highest levels of distress are the most likely to benefit.
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