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Referring a Student for Professional Help

In many cases of student distress, faculty and staff provide adequate help through empathic listening, facilitating open discussion of problems, instilling hope, conveying acceptance, and offering basic advice.

In some cases, however, students need professional help to overcome problems and to resume effective coping. The following signs indicate that a student may need counseling:

  • The student remains distressed following repeated attempts by you and others to be helpful.
  • The student becomes increasingly isolated, unkempt, irritable, or disconnected.
  • The student’s academic or social performance deteriorates.
  • The student’s behavior reflects increased hopelessness or helplessness.
  • You find yourself doing ongoing counseling rather than consulting or advising.
  • Speak to the student in a direct, concerned, straightforward manner.
  • Because many students initially resist the idea of counseling, be caring but firm in your judgment that counseling would be helpful. Also be clear about the reasons that you are concerned.
  • Be knowledgeable in advance about the services and procedures of the Counseling Center and other campus help-giving agencies. The best referrals are made to specific people or services.
  • Suggest that the student call to make an appointment, and provide the Counseling Center number (301) 314-7651 and location (Shoemaker Building).
  • Remind the student that services are FREE AND CONFIDENTIAL.
  • Sometimes it is useful to more actively assist students in scheduling an initial counseling appointment. You can offer the use of your phone or call the receptionist yourself while the student waits in your office. In some situations, you may find it wise to walk the student over to the Counseling Center.
  • If you need help in deciding on whether or not it is appropriate to make a referral, call the Counseling Center Warmline at (301) 314-7651 for consultation with a professional.

We are required by law and by professional ethics to protect the confidentiality of all communication between psychologist and client (except in cases where harm to self or harm to others is involved). Consequently, we cannot discuss the details of a student’s situation with others or even indicate whether the student is, in fact, in counseling. For information about the student to be released to you or others, we must first get permission from the student.

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