New Coursework Equips Counselors for Trauma Response


Dr. Katie MasloweThe University will offer a new concentration in crisis and trauma counseling to meet a growing need in the field.

In Florida, school districts are hiring thanks to $69 million that lawmakers allocated in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act for mental health services after the mass shooting at the high school of the same name.

Yet many traditional counseling programs don’t offer substantive trauma training to prepare school counselors for what they face, said Dr. Katie Maslowe, the assistant professor of counseling who developed the new concentration. Counselors encounter students contemplating suicide, surviving sexual abuse and navigating the foster care system.

“They’re on the front lines, whether or not there’s something like Parkland,” said Maslowe, a certified traumatologist who responded to the high school shooting. She also led a team of South Florida therapists who responded to the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016.

The University’s new concentration is for those who want to counsel children and adults who have experienced mass shootings, natural disasters, abuse, domestic violence, military trauma, medical crises and human trafficking, among other forms of trauma.

The concentration launches in the fall with three online courses that build on each other and are a jumping-off point for additional study, Maslowe said. The University will offer a certificate for professionals already in the field beginning in January. Although the courses are online, she strives to replicate the advantages of a traditional classroom learning experience with synchronous class meetings, set time to pray together and written and video discussions.

Because PBA is a Christian university, students have the opportunity to study the spiritual and religious effects of trauma and bring healing in light of it, Maslowe said. That integration equips students to work with Christians and people of other faiths.

“We’re able to do all of our traditional work but also infuse that component,” Maslowe said.

All students in the counselor education program will complete the first course, which lays the foundations of crisis, trauma and disaster counseling, Maslowe said. If students want to complete the concentration, they will take the two additional courses. One course explores the physiological and spiritual effects of trauma, and the other develops students’ abilities to assess and treat trauma and trauma disorders.

Inevitably, counseling graduates will encounter people who have experienced trauma, Maslowe said. Seventy percent of adults in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives, according to the National Council for Behavioral Health.

Trauma and crisis are buzzwords in counseling, Maslowe said.

“It looks very appealing to employers to see people with trauma training,” she said. “It puts students ahead of their colleagues who might have more traditional counseling training without the trauma work.”

For more information on PBA's Mental Health Counseling program, click here.

Photo: Dr. Katie Maslowe