When and How to Refer a Student to Counseling
A Guide for Faculty, Staff, and Advisors
The Role of the Faculty, Staff, and Advisors
As a faculty, staff member, or advisor, you may be the first person to recognize students who would benefit from referral to Counseling Services at the Health and Counseling Center (HCC). As you know, students may turn to anyone they perceive as knowledgeable, caring and trustworthy during times of need. Although situational factors such as class size or demands within your office may affect the type of interactions you have with students, here are some suggestions on how you can establish rapport with students and understand their concerns:
- Talk with the student in private.
- Listen carefully. Repeat back to the student the essence of what he/she told you.
- Express concern. Be specific about your observations and reasons for concern.
- Respect the student’s values and beliefs. Avoid criticizing or sounding judgmental.
Students will appreciate your interest, concern, and willingness to listen. In addition, if the situation warrants, you have also begun to establish the trust and rapport necessary in making an effective referral to the HCC.
Signs Suggesting the Need for a Referral
- Test anxiety and/or poor test taking strategies
- Consistent discrepancy between potential and actual achievement
- Poor time management and insufficient study habits
- Repeated absences from class with little or no work completed
- Excessive procrastination and uncharacteristically poor work
- Repeated requests for special consideration
- Morbid and depressing themes on written assignments
- Inability to choose courses or a major
- Career indecision or unrealistic career expectations
- Dissatisfaction with academic major
- Shifts in discussion from advisement on coursework to personal issues
- A stated need for help
- Marked change in personal hygiene
- Impaired speech or garbled and disjointed
- High levels of irritability, including unruly, aggressive, violent and/or abrasive behavior
- Dramatic weight gain or loss
- Normal emotions that are displayed to an extreme degree or for a prolonged period of time, e.g., tearfulness or nervousness
- Frequent falling asleep in class
- Stress-related somatic complaints Excessive drinking, drug abuse or drug dependence
- Physical complaints
- Behavior that regularly interferes with decorum of classroom
- Dependency on advisor/ “Hanging around”
- Sudden distancing from faculty or other Traumatic changes in personal relationships due to loss or death
- Relationship (family, friendship, roommate) problems
- Identity and acculturation issues
Emergency Situations When You Should Get Help Immediately
- Expression of suicidal thoughts
- Expression of homicidal thoughts
- Severe loss of emotional control
- Gross impairment of thinking ability
- Loss of connection with reality
- Bizarre behavior
Making a Referral
To make an appointment, the student can either call or stop by our office. Faculty and staff can also initiate the call while the student is in their office and then allow the student to schedule the appointment.
If you call the HCC on behalf of a student, identify yourself and explain to the front desk staff that you are assisting a student in making an appointment; provide the staff member with information as to the perceived level of urgency (immediate need, tomorrow, next week) and a brief description of the behavior that concerns you; then allow the student to speak directly to the HCC staff member to arrange an appointment. Students will be assigned to a counseling staff member based on staff availability.
Leave the option open, except in emergencies, for the student to accept or refuse counseling. If the student is skeptical or reluctant for whatever reason, simply express your acceptance of those feelings so that your own relationship with the student is not jeopardized. Give the student an opportunity to consider other alternatives by suggesting that he/she might need some time to think it over. If the student emphatically says “no,” then respect that decision, and again leave the situation open for possible reconsideration at a later time.
If the student is reluctant to accept a referral, or you are not comfortable suggesting it, feel free to call the HCC and share your observations and concerns with a counseling staff member. Consultations to faculty, staff, students, and concerned parents are a regular part of the services provided by the HCC. A counseling staff member can assist you in determining the most appropriate course of action.
Client confidentiality prohibits HCC staff from providing you with information about a student whom you have referred. However, it is appropriate for you to check back with the student to determine whether he/she has followed up on your recommendation. Even if the student did not accept your attempted referral, it will show your continued interest and concern.