Date of Submission


Document Type



Doctor of Education




Maladaptive Coping, Vicarious Trauma, Social Learning, Student Leader Training, Peer Support, Situational Leadership


Undergraduate orientation programs at post-secondary institutions are important platforms for new students to adjust to a new social and academic climate. Student leaders play a critical role in helping new students find belonging on campus. However, being in a peer support role can heighten student leaders’ exposure to vicarious trauma (VT) if they have not yet mastered how to regulate their own emotions or withstand the social and academic pressures associated with university. Many student leaders experience exacerbated symptoms of VT because of their maladaptive coping habits. Institution X does not have a viable framework to monitor or regulate student leaders’ interactions when supporting students in distress, nor does it have the means to measure coping skills or provide effective critical incident support. This Organizational Improvement Plan examines the use of maladaptive coping habits by student leaders when supporting peers in distress and discusses strategies to help these leaders develop heathy attitudes towards coping to overcome the negative effects of vicarious trauma. Situational Leadership® II (Blanchard et al., 2013; Zigarmi & Roberts, 2017) and Complexity Leadership Theory (Uhl-Bien & Marion, 2009; Uhl-Bien, Marion, & McKelvey, 2007) can be used to influence coping habits by creating a new paradigm for thinking about change management in which student leaders and administrators can explore issues collaboratively. A proposed solution is to create an extended training framework, which establishes learning communities as vehicles to teach adaptive coping skills using a modified dialectical behaviour therapy curriculum.