A handful of members of the American Counseling Association are answering a call to action from the University of Colorado Denver by providing pro-bono individual and group counseling to the university’s faculty, staff and students in the wake of the Aurora shooting tragedy on July 20.

Those who stepped up to offer their services are licensed professional counselors with training in disaster mental health. They have been volunteering for the past month at the university’s Anschutz Medical Campus and downtown Denver campus and will wrap up on Friday.

“The University of Colorado Denver felt it was important to provide counseling to faculty, staff and students in the aftermath of the Aurora tragedy because we believe in our connection to each other as a community,” says Ruth Possehl, interim director of the counseling center at the University of Colorado and licensed professional counselor. “We all deserve to find help — and a refuge through our communities.  The university is one important place of refuge. Though we are dedicated to our mission as an institution that fosters our rigorous ‘quest for knowledge,’ we are also dedicated to providing for the well-being and health of all those integral to the workings of the university. And, as counselors and diverse human beings, we empathize with those who were directly or indirectly impacted by this tragedy. It rubs up against our deepest longings to know that we, too, would be cared for when and if tragedy strikes.”

Since the university sent out a media blast asking for volunteers, eight ACA members have donated their time. Possehl says the response within the university community has been positive and appreciative. “We have seen people on both campuses — faculty, staff and students — reach out for confidential counseling,” she says.

Possehl says that the ACA volunteers have received glowing reviews from those who have used their services, and she calls them “a wonderfully diverse group of counselors with trauma experience.”

She adds that the University of Colorado Denver is grateful to ACA for offering their help and guidance during this difficult time for the community.

“We are profoundly touched by this tragic event and wish to reassure the community that the university’s resolve rests with law enforcement and other authorities who are carefully investigating the suspect in order to one day prosecute for these crimes that have resulted in so much pain and trauma,” says Jacque Montgomery, media specialist for the university.

The university has also established a “Top Issues” website with updates as a way of keeping the public informed in the aftermath of the shooting.

Click here for ACA resources on disaster mental health.

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.