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How to Identify and Refer a Distressed Student

How Can You Help?

College students may experience a great deal of stress during the course of their academic experience. While most students cope successfully with the challenges these years bring, some students encounter anxiety and confusion in balancing new demands on time. As faculty members, teaching assistants, staff or friends, you may encounter students struggling through various issues. Many students have not sought prior counseling and may be unaware of the services available to them.

Your role could be a positive and crucial one in identifying students who are in distress and assisting them to find the resources available to help themselves.

Reasons For Consultations/Referrals

The following signs may indicate a need to refer a student for counseling services:

  • Abrupt / radical changes in behavior.
  • Isolation from others.
  • Depression.
  • Poor attendance in classes.
  • Sudden outbursts of anger.
  • Attention/memory difficulties.
  • Alcohol/drug abuse.
  • Inappropriate crying
  • Chronic fatigue or low energy.
  • Irritability or restlessness.
  • Suicidal thoughts or feelings.
  • Low self-esteem.

A student may also be referred for information on various issues such as, but not limited to:

  • Social/personal concerns.
  • Uncertainty of future goals.
  • Substance abuse.
  • Sexual assault.
  • Relationship concerns.
  • Racial/cultural adjustment.
  • Sexual identity issues/concerns.
  • Extreme test anxiety.

Guidelines For Interaction

  • Talk to the student in private.
  • Listen carefully.
  • Show concern and interest.
  • Repeat back the essence of what the student has told you.
  • Avoid criticizing or sounding judgmental.
  • Suggest Counseling Services as a resource and discuss this with the student. If you know a particular counselor, make it a more personal contact by identifying specific traits which may assuage anxieties.
  • Offer a Counseling Services brochure.
  • Explain to the student that counseling at the Counseling Services office is free and confidential.
  • If the student resists help and you are still worried, contact Counseling Services to discuss your concerns.

Making a Referral to Counseling Services

  1. Suggest that the student call or come to Counseling Services to make an appointment. We are located in the Stoltz Student Life Wing on the ground floor of Mary Frances Hall, or call (563)588-8140.
  2. If you wish to be certain the student makes an appointment, call the receptionist while the student is in your office. (Note: due to client confidentiality laws, we cannot inform you as to whether or not a student has made or kept an appointment without the student’s written permission.) Write down the appointment information, time, date, counselor, and location for the student.
  3. If you consider the situation to be an emergency (i.e. person is a danger to him or herself or others or is in danger), please contact Counseling Services immediately. It is important that you not promise to keep this information confidential. If after hours, contact Campus Security, (563)588-6393, to contact the counselor on-call. If you need help for a non-Clarke student please contact the local hospital emergency room for additional resources.
  4. Sometimes it is helpful for you to accompany the student to our office. Some students may find it comforting for you to wait while they meet with a counselor.
  5. Follow-up with the student by inquiring as to whether he/she kept his/her appointment and how he/she felt about the session.
  6. If you are concerned about a student, but are uncertain of the appropriateness of the referral, or the student resists a referral, feel free to call Counseling Services for a consultation (563)588-8140.

 A variety of services are available. Included, but not limited to:

  • Individual and group counseling.
  • Workshops.
  • Consultations/referrals.
  • Educational resources.
  • Sexual Assault & Safety Education.