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Referring a friend: Helping Others Get Help

When to refer:

  • The student's problem involves any area outside of what you normally discuss with students, particularly in regard to emotional, mental, behavioral, or social concerns.
  • You think the student is dealing with a psychological problem.
  • The student is acting in ways that are harmful to herself/himself or others.
  • You notice a change in the student's behavior (e.g. missing classes for long periods of time, looking depressed, crying in your office, asking you about psychological problems).

Where to refer:

At times it may be difficult to know what office will be most helpful to the student. You may call the on-call therapist for assistance or simply refer the student to CAPS. The brief list of Campus Resources and Community Resources provides you with additional sources. It may be helpful to consult with Counseling and Psychological Services staff before you talk with the student.

How to refer:

In a caring, respectful, and direct manner suggest that s/he may need to speak with a professional counselor/therapist.

  • Inform the student about Counseling and Psychological Services. This will help to alleviate anxiety and increase the chance that a student will follow through with an appointment. Let the student know that no record of a visit to CAPS appears on a transcript or in a placement file.
  • Any student, regardless of course load, can receive a one-time consultation to discuss their concerns and explore options. Although faculty and staff aren't eligible for on-going services, free one-time consultations occasionally are arranged.
  • While it is always reassuring to refer a student to a therapist you know, it is likely the student will first be seen by whichever staff member is first available for an emergency appointment. Student preferences for specific counselors will be honored when possible.
  • It is generally best to have the student make the actual contact; however, it may be appropriate to invite the student to make the call from your office. If the student is in too much distress to do so, it may be more helpful for you make the telephone call or accompany the student to our office. This shows the student that you genuinely care and may provide a sense of security.
  • If the student is reluctant to go for counseling, suggest that she or he see a physician or a trusted religious authority. Initially, some people may be more comfortable with these individuals, who will often refer the student to a counselor.
  • If you believe it would be helpful for you to share some information with the counselor, it is often best to get the student's permission first. Understand that the counselor will not reciprocate information about the student unless s/he has written permission from the student in-hand to do so.

After the Referral:

Once the student is in counseling, it is best not to ask the student about what is being discussed. You may ask whether the appointment was kept and let the student decide how much to share with you.

  • Do not expect immediate change in the student or for all of the symptoms to go away in a short period of time. The process of change may take time for some people.
  • Respect the student. Although the student may not be well-known by you or perhaps is disruptive in class, each person deserves the respect of fellow human beings.
  • Finally, recognize your own limits. Your role in making a referral is to see that the student is aware of the counseling services on campus and, in urgent cases, doing what you can to connect the person with our services.