Counseling & Wellness Center

When and How to Make a Counseling Referral

When to make a counseling referral

Students who are experiencing emotional distress may show warning signs that indicate that they may need professional intervention. If you notice any of the following signs, a referral to the Counseling Center may be warranted:

Signs of depression

  • Extreme guilt or self-blame
  • Frequent crying spells
  • Inability to find pleasure in anything and general life dissatisfaction
  • Sleep difficulties

References to suicide

  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Preoccupation with death
  • Giving away possessions
  • Suicidal threats and/or having a concrete plan

Unusual behavior

  • Dependency; student is making many appointments or frequently drops by
  • Withdrawal from usual activities; self-isolation
  • Suspiciousness and feelings of being persecuted
  • Very irritable, outbursts of crying or aggressiveness
  • Signs of eating disorders

Life circumstances

  • Death of serious illness of a family member
  • Relationship problems
  • Self-esteem problems
  • Severe homesickness or graduation anxiety
  • Sexual or physical abuse

Academic problems

  • Dramatic decline in performance
  • Poor attendance
  • Difficulty concentrating, extreme procrastination
  • Doubts about ability to succeed
  • Talk about dropping out of school

How to make a counseling referral

Convey empathy and instill hope

  • "You sound overwhelmed. Would you like to talk?"
  • "You seem to be having a tough time. How are things going?"
  • "You seem stressed. I can relate. How can I help?"
  • "We don't have to figure this out for ourselves. Let's see if we can find some help.

Direct language

  • "I'm concerned about [list behavior]."
  • "I'm concerned that you seem to be trying to handle a lot on your own. Talking with a counselor may help."
  • "I'd like to help you find some help. Is that okay?"
  • "I can see you're frustrated. I'm frustrated too. Unfortunately, your behavior is disrupting the class."
  • "I cannot listen to you when you're yelling."

Communicate confidence

  • "The counselors are great here. Do you want me to help you call the Counseling Center?"
  • "The counselors have lots of information for students in your situation. Do you want the number?"
  • "The services at the Counseling Center are free and confidential." [NOTE: limits to confidentiality exist if a student is in imminent danger]