Guidelines for Intervention

Openly acknowledging to students that you are aware of their distress, that you are sincerely concerned about their welfare, and that you are willing to help them explore their alternatives, can have a profound effect. We encourage you, whenever possible, to speak directly and honestly to a student when you sense that she/he is in academic and/or personal distress.

  1. Request to see the student in private if you feel comfortable/safe doing so. This may help minimize the embarrassment and defensiveness.
  2. Briefly acknowledge your observations and perceptions of the situation and express your concerns directly and honestly.
  3. Listen carefully to what is troubling the student and try to see the issues from her/his point of view without necessarily agreeing or disagreeing.
  4. Attempt to identify the student’s problem or concern, as well as your own concerns or uneasiness. You can help by exploring alternatives to deal with the problem.
  5. Comment directly on what you have observed without interpreting or judging. Strange and inappropriate behavior should not be ignored.
  6. Involve yourself only as far as you want to go. At times, in an attempt to reach or help a troubled student, you may become more involved than time or skill permits. Extending oneself to others always involves some risk—but it can be a gratifying experience when kept within realistic limits.

Consultation

If you are unsure how to respond to a specific student, we encourage you to consult with one of the professional staff at the Counseling Center. Call us at 898–6345, inform the receptionist who you are (faculty, staff, administrator) and ask to speak with one of the counselors. A brief consultation may help you sort out the relevant issues, explore alternative approaches, and suggest new ways to cope with the anxiety or stress the student may be experiencing.

Overall, when dealing with most students in crisis situations, conveying your concern and willingness to help in any way you can (including referral to counseling) is probably the most important thing you can do. Your support, encouragement, and reassurance will be particularly valuable to a student in crisis.

Making a Referral

When you have determined that a referral to the Psychological Counseling Center is appropriate, you can be most helpful by clearly and concisely telling the student why you think counseling would be helpful. Don’t force the issue if the student takes a defensive posture—simply restate your concerns and recommendations. You might also tell the student a few facts about our services. For instance, all services are free to regularly enrolled students, and professional counselors and psychologists provide counseling Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. All discussions are confidential except when the student presents a danger to self, others, or when certain kinds of abuse is involved.

Early intervention is preferable to crisis intervention. To ensure prompt attention, it is best to call 898–6345 in advance and let us know the student will be coming in. Having the student make the initial contact increases her/his responsibility and commitment to come for counseling; however, there may be times, especially if the student is in crisis, when it is advantageous for you to call ahead and let us know the situation and that you are expecting the student to come to our office and/or accompany the student to our office. We will schedule the student with one of our professional staff as quickly as possible. Please do not ask for a specific counselor, as we have a rotating on–duty crisis counselor available.

In some situations, it may be imperative to request the student be seen as soon as possible. If a student’s situation is urgent, she/he will probably have concerns involving

  • Suicide
  • Fear of losing control and possibly harming/hurting someone
  • Sexual assault
  • Physical assault or witness to an assault or accident
  • Fear for her/his life or for the life of someone they know
  • Abuse
  • Recent death of a friend or family member
  • Some other traumatic event

DO:

  • Call or have the student call the Counseling Center at 898–6345.
  • Inform the receptionist who you are (student, faculty, staff, administrator).
  • Identify the need for an urgent assessment.

When to call University Police 911

  • When you believe that you or another person is in immediate danger.
  • When you believe that the student is about to harm her/himself.
  • When you believe that the student is out of control and disruptive.

Basic Guidelines for Various Types of Problems

There are many ways that a student can be experiencing psychological distress. Students with different conditions respond better to different kinds of treatment. The information in the links listed above give some guidelines on how to deal with various types of students.

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