When To Make a Referral
- When there are indications of a possible acute crisis or emergency
- Signs of depression or suicidal thoughts
- threats of harming someone
- seems out of touch with reality
- victim of a traumatic event
- possible alcohol or drug dependency
- judgment and/or ability to care for self seems greatly impaired
- When the student’s problem or concern requires greater skill or training than you have (e.g., when the student needs more than just someone to listen to them).
- When there is a more appropriate office or person to handle the problem.
- When the student’s concerns are taking up too much of your time.
- When it may be a conflict of interest for you to be involved.
- When there is a values conflict that will make it difficult for you to discuss the situation objectively.
- When you are very uncomfortable with the student and/or with the nature of her/his concern.
- When you find yourself taking on the student’s problems as if they were your own; or when the student’s problems stir up or intensify your own issues.
- When the student seems reluctant to talk with you.
- When you have a “gut feeling” that something is just not right.
How to Refer a Student to a Counseling Center
The simplest way is to offer the student information and recommend whatever services you or they think may be appropriate.
- Convey your concern for the student’s well-being.
- Explain what you have heard or observed that makes you concerned about the student.
- Recommend one or more possible referrals, explaining why these resources may be helpful.
- Tell the student as much as you can about the helpfulness of counseling to normalize the process.
- Involve the student in the referral decision in a collaborative way, if possible.
- Help the student make the initial contact with the Counseling Center. Call 540-665-4530 or email email@example.com.
After the Referral
- Ask the student how it went, without prying too much for information.
- Continue to be supportive and inquire periodically how he/she is doing.
Contact the Counseling Center if you learn additional information that may be important or relevant. Counseling Center staff can receive information from you, but cannot give you information without the student’s written authorization.
Possible Problems in Making Referrals
The student may feel rejected or abandoned by you.
The way you make the referral – i.e., in a caring, compassionate way – can help defuse this possibility.
The student may have stated that she or he only wants to talk to you and no one else.
Emphasize why Counseling Center staff may be better trained to handle their concerns, and why it would be in her/his best interests to get help from the most qualified source AND information shared is strictly confidential.
The student may be afraid or reluctant to go to the Counseling Center.
Remind the student that both undergrad and graduate SU students use the Counseling Center representing all ages and majors. Offer to help the student make the initial contact. If you are willing to do so, offer to accompany him/her on the initial visit to the Counseling Center, which is located on the top floor of Cooley Hall, Room 301-307.
The student may agree with the idea of going to the Counseling Center, but then fail to follow through.
Offering to call Counseling Center while the student is still in your office may help. It is important to follow-up and ask the student how it went – without prying for details.
You may not know enough about various referral resources to be able to give the student a recommendation.
This is a good reason to familiarize yourself with available student support services before a need arises.
You may limit your recommendations to referrals that you would use, rather than inform the student about all of her/his options.
Even if you have never benefited from counseling yourself, try to be open to the possibility that counseling may be helpful to this student.
You may not believe that anyone else can help the student but you.
This is often a warning sign of a unhealthy dynamic that may be going on. In this case, it may be especially important to get another person or office involved.
When in Doubt, Consult
If you are concerned about a student, but unsure of an appropriate course of action, Counseling Center staff is happy to consult with you by phone 540-665-4530 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Except for certain rare legal situations (e.g., threat of harm to self or others), all information about student clients, including the fact that a student made an appointment at the Counseling Center, is confidential and cannot be released to anyone else without the student’s permission. If the student gives us authorization to release information, we are happy to do so. Calling ahead, BEFORE the student comes to the Counseling Center, to tell us that you would like to know if the student made and kept an appointment alerts our staff to seek permission from the student when we see her or him.
Suggestions for What to Say
Although it is best to use your own wording and style, it is often helpful to say things like:
It may help to talk with a mental health professional at the Counseling Center about the things that are bothering you. Did you know that counseling is confidential?”
I’m worried about you because you seem so distressed. I’d like to call the Counseling Center to make an emergency appointment for you to be seen as soon as possible, okay?”
If you or the student consider the situation a crisis or emergency (If this is during office hours):
- Offer to call Counseling Center (540) 665-4530) while the student is still in your office.
- Let the office receptionist know that you have a student with you who needs a crisis appointment, she will connect you with the Counseling Center Director.
- Share relevant information with Emily Petkus, Counseling Center Director, over the phone (e.g., what it is about the student’s behavior that is causing you concern).
- Depending on the situation, the counselor may meet the student where you are or ask you to walk the student over to the Counseling Center, Room 301 Cooley Hall.
- If it is important to you to know if the student kept the appointment, ask the student, or ask the student to sign a release with their counselor.
- After-hours emergencies contact Campus Security, (540) 678-4444