Counseling & Wellness Center


A. When?

There are several instances in which you should make a referral to the Counseling and Wellness Center:

1. Whenever a student expresses to you some adjustment concern or emotional problems.

2. Whenever you believe that a student could benefit from professional help.

3. Whenever you observe unusual or disruptive behavior.

4. ALWAYS when a student mentions suicide.

Making referrals for counseling is a skill which requires tact, sensitivity, and at times, firmness. You should be aware that students, even if they request help, are often ambivalent and embarrassed to ask for such assistance. Part of your job, then, is to allay as many of their fears and answer as many of their questions as you reasonably can.

To facilitate a smooth referral, the student should be told:

1. A meeting with a Counseling and Wellness Center staff member is not mandatory, but is in the student's best interest.

2. That you would be willing to come to the Counseling and Wellness Center (if you feel that is the only way to guarantee that the student comes in) with the student for the first visit, but that sitting in on the session is entirely at the discretion of the student.

3. That all information is kept strictly confidential. This means that parents will not be informed about what is being discussed, nor will any such information be entered into the student's university records, nor will the professor, or any other university official be informed, unless the student gives permission.

4. That help-seeking is healthy, and reflects open-mindedness and flexibility. Students will often argue that they can "deal with" their problems "alone." You should point out that no one is saying that they can't; only that their efforts might be enhanced by consulting with a professional. (Use the word "consult" when possible. It is less threatening.)

5. If suicide is the concern, emphasize strongly the need for the student to meet with a staff member for at least one visit. Don't make threats, but point out that talk of suicide is serious business, and is taken very seriously, and that such talk cannot be dismissed with verbal reassurance by the student. You can remind the student that one visit does not obligate him/her to more visits, unless they and the Center staff member decide that more meetings would be helpful.

B. How?

1. Contact a Counseling and Wellness Center staff member, either by phone (x2300) or by coming in to the Center. You may use this time to discuss the situation with the staff member, who may be able to determine what the best intervention strategy might be. ALWAYS try to discuss the situation with the staff member before bringing the student in, unless it is an emergency. You should also tell the student that you will be talking to the Center, so that he/she doesn't feel betrayed or vulnerable. Discuss what you will say, emphasizing that you are trying to make the referral easier for the student. Don't forget that the student has strong points too, and it is a good idea to reassure the student that you will be discussing his/her assets as well.

2. It is often helpful for the student to know whom he/she will be seeing for the first visit, and frequently you will be able to determine that ahead of time. However, before referring to a specific staff member for ongoing counseling, make sure that the staff member will be available to see the student. Because of scheduling demands it is not always possible to meet requests for a particular staff member. In making more routine referrals, when you do not have to contact the Counseling and Wellness Center on the student's behalf, always give the student more than one staff member's name and emphasize that being flexible about choice of counselor means that they'll be able to see someone sooner.

3. Follow up with the staff member. While it is often helpful to us for you to keep the consultant or staff member informed of the student's adjustment, it is counterproductive if the student feels spied on. Remember, too, that due to client confidentiality which the Counseling and Wellness Center must respect, information sharing will be one-way; we cannot discuss with you our work with the student, except perhaps after the initial meeting, and even then only with the student's consent.

Another type of situation deserves mention. It is not unusual to become aware of something which you believe the student's counselor should know. In those situations, rather than contact the counselor directly, you should consult with another Counseling and Wellness Center staff member. Tell them what you know, and allow them to determine whether or not it should be passed on. This prevents awkward situations for all parties involved, and helps to ensure the student's privacy.

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