Intermediate Recovery Services

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In the immediate aftermath of a violent or traumatic event, many students and staff may show signs of traumatic stress. Over a period of six to eight weeks, some may continue to experience negative reactions to the trauma. For this reason, it's a good idea to re-assess after a few months to determine which students and staff continue to experience distress or impairment and may benefit from continued or more in-depth mental health services. Intermediate Recovery Services differ from the broad psychoeducational and support services offered in Early Recovery Services in that they are more intensive and of longer duration, extending up to a year or more.


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An assessment for intermediate services should include measures of current post-traumatic stress symptoms, depression, and impairment in important areas of their lives (for example, school, home, work, and social relationships.)

In students, these symptoms may take the form of continued poor attendance, low grades, irritability, poor hygiene or self care, or changes in the ways they relate to others.

A more in-depth assessment looks for several factors related to the student's traumatic experience that may put the student at greater risk for developing additional emotional distress. These risk factors may include:

  • A direct exposure or proximity to violence, as either a witness or victim
  • The feeling that there is still a threat to one's life or threat of serious injury
  • A previous experience with trauma or loss
  • A history of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or other mental disorder
  • The degree of "reactivity" to traumatic reminders*

    *Students are at heightened risk if they continue to react negatively to reminders of the traumatic event. Reminders can include people, places, situations, times of day, sounds, or even smells associated with the event.

  • The student's familiarity with victims
  • Worry about the safety of a family member or other important person
  • A family's "response psychopathology," or its inability to function
  • The loss of the family home
  • A parent's loss of a job and income due to a disaster or crisis


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The Pressure to "Move On"

The process of recovery is individual in nature. Each student navigates his or her way through the healing process in different ways. A school's tolerance for the differences in the time needed for recovery is crucial. Often, there is pressure and criticism from parents, the school, the district, or other students directed toward those who need ongoing support. The pressure to recover or "get over" the traumatic experience can result in a student prematurely ending services and closing the door on opportunities for support. Experience from the shootings at Columbine High School, Santana High School, Thurston High School, and others suggests that student and school recovery from a major event comes over years, not months.


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Intermediate Recovery Service Programs

Students or staff with persisting difficulties following a traumatic event should be referred to a specialized program or mental health professional with expertise in treating trauma. Moderately distressed students may be treated in school-based trauma/grief programs that are becoming increasingly available in school districts. These programs offer on-site individual and group interventions provided by trained counselors or psychologists.


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One Boy's Experience in Intermediate Recovery

Click here for vignette of one student's experience in the weeks after a traumatic event.


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List of guidebooks/Manuals for Intermediate Recovery Services

Click here for Resources for Schools, Where you will find descriptions of programs for all phases of recovery, contact information, and useful links.


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