A Scoping Review of School‑Based Efforts to Support Students Who Have Experienced Trauma

Research BriefHealthy SchoolsMar 26 2020

The current review sought to describe the published literature relative to addressing trauma in schools. Through a systematic review of peer-reviewed publications as well as gray literature, we identified a total of 91 publications that were coded for study rigor as well as a number of intervention characteristics. Publications included in the review mentioned a variety of intervention components, most notably an emphasis on counseling services, skill development, psychoeducation related to trauma, and parent engagement. We identified a relative lack of empirical evaluation of whole-school approaches and interventions intended to be delivered by non-clinical staff. We also found that less rigorous publications were more likely to highlight the needs of particularly vulnerable groups of youth and to emphasize cultural competence and community engagement in efforts to address trauma in schools.

We call for more rigorous evaluation of practices and policies that take a whole-school approach and can be implemented by non-clinical staff. In particular, we highlight the need to evaluate professional development strategies that can help school staff acquire knowledge and skills that can translate into improved outcomes for students—especially students from historically marginalized groups. We also emphasize the importance of ensuring that high-quality research be made accessible to policymakers and school staff to ensure that clear, evidence-based guidance is available to avoid programs, practices, and policies that may inadvertently traumatize students or exacerbate symptoms among students who have already experienced trauma.