The guidance counsellor's role regarding Trauma-Aware Schooling in Brisbane Catholic Education schools


There are many students in classrooms who have experienced complex childhood trauma; physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse, neglect, and/or violence; and who suffer longer-term outcomes that impact on their schooling (Tobin, 2016; Wamser-Nanney & Vandenberg, 2013). New research is explaining the impact of CCT on student behaviours, attendance, engagement, and life outcomes (as well as the well-being and retention of educators) and is driving an international reassessment of schooling practice (Adams et al., 2016; Centre on the Developing Child, 2016; Irigaray, et al., 2013).

Growing evidence suggests that whilst malleability of young brains increases vulnerability to neural impacts of CCT – neural repair is achieved through “trauma-informed” practice to address harm (Evans & Coccoma, 2014; Siegel, 2012). Drawing from neuroscience, and examination of child/adolescent development, adverse childhood experiences, and intergenerational consequences of CCT, this research is revolutionising practice in many areas, including schooling (Craig, 2016; Quadara & Hunter, 2016).

Due to growing emphasis on “Trauma-Aware Schooling” (Howard, 2018) throughout Australia and a concerted effort by Brisbane Catholic Education (BCE) to train all Guidance Counsellors in Trauma-Aware Schooling during 2018, it is timely to explore the contribution of BCE Guidance Counsellors to this work, to enhance outcomes for this vulnerable group of students and for those working hard to educate them.

O’Gorman (2018:563) suggests that the role of the GC, should include work “to address the threats to academic functioning posed by the impact of trauma that may present as mental health or complex behavioural concerns”.  However, as this work is relatively new, and the role of the Guidance Counsellors is not always uniformly defined or applied, it would be helpful to explore the potential of the Guidance Counsellors role in areas such as counselling practice, advocacy, leadership, training, and support.

Research aims and processes

This research aims to identify elements of the BCE Guidance Counsellor’s role in Trauma-Aware Schooling.

Through a survey and focus groups we will ask the Guidance Counsellors in BCE their thoughts and opinions on their role regarding trauma aware schooling in various contexts. We aim to identify further insights into their role through this process and, with their contribution, develop appropriate resources to support trauma- aware schooling in BCE.

It also aims to enhance the knowledge and skills of BCE Guidance Counsellors in Trauma-Aware Schooling.

Through the development of resources informed by the project data, Guidance Counsellors will be supported to enhance their skills and knowledge of Trauma-Aware Schooling and enhance their capacity to support this work in various contexts.

Funding / Grants

  • Brisbane Catholic Education

Chief Investigators