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Referring a Student to Counseling

It is common that students may go to a family member, friend, loved one or close faculty/staff member on campus for support before coming to a counselor. 

Often students feel safe and supported when coming to someone that they already have a connection with when they are struggling.  At times, this can provide a safe and compassionate ear to listen.  Sometimes, you may find yourself in a situation where you feel they need more specialized care or need to talk with a clinical staff member for some on-going support.  

The following are guidelines to consider as you try to get the student to come into the counseling center to speak with a clinician:

  • Speak directly to the student about your concerns, preferably in private.  People in distress are almost always receptive to an expression of genuine interest, care and concern.
  • Be specific about the behaviors you have observed or that  have caused you to worry about them (changes in their behavior, moods, forgetting to do things, falling behind in assignments, etc).
  • Remember that, except in cases of an emergency, the decision whether to accept a referral to counseling rests with the student.  If the student refuses the idea of counseling it is best not to push but to make sure that they know the resources are there to help. 
  • Don’t try to trick the student into counseling.   Attempting to do this can diminish their ability to trust you and in the counseling process
  • Counseling centers and staff won’t typically reach out to students who don’t initiate the contact.  There is still a lot of stigma about mental health concerns and it can increase someone’s worry by randomly receiving a phone call from an unknown clinician. We find that students are less likely to reach out to after these cold calls.
  • Assist the student in coming to the counseling center by walking with them, helping them make the first call or by reviewing our website with services with them.    They have to put the effort in themselves for counseling, but you can help encourage and support them in this process.
  • If you have referred a student to the Counseling Center, additional support is sometimes helpful.  The counseling process is often most difficult at the very beginning and your encouragement may help to get the student over this initial hurdle.   Please remember that, because of confidentiality constraints, clinicians cannot share information with you about a student.  Clinicians can always listen to your concerns and provide in the moment suggestions about ways to help the student.