Faculty and Staff Referral Guide
The following information is provided to assist faculty and staff with learning more about Goodwin College’s counseling services, referral information, and how to assist students in crisis most effectively. Our goal is to help faculty and staff recognize some of the symptoms of student distress and to provide advice for intervention and referral to campus resources.
Faculty and staff play a significant role because of their ongoing contact with students and are often able to observe signs and symptoms of a student in distress before anyone else. Guidelines are offered and each individual must consider what is appropriate in a given situation. The guidelines are not hard and fast rules and personal and professional judgment should always come into play.
Consider these Signs and Symptoms for Referrals
- Social isolation, withdrawn, lethargy, disconnected
- Inability to focus on a specific topic of conversation or activity
- Disorganized thinking/speech, feelings that are inappropriate to a situation, lack of affect or other evidence that a student is "out of touch with reality"
- Expression of feelings of persecution and strong mistrust of others
- Violent outbursts
- Signs of excessive alcohol or drug use
- Significant and marked changes in mood or behavior
- You find yourself giving ongoing counseling rather than consultation and advising and are pulled in directions with which you are uncomfortable
- Behavior reflects increased hopelessness or helplessness
- Marked decline in quality of course work, class participation and quality of papers and test results
- Increased absence from class or failure to turn in course work
- Prolonged depression, suggested by a sad expression, apathy, weight loss, sleep difficulties or tearfulness
- Nervousness, agitation, excessive worry, irritability, aggressiveness or non-stop talking
- Bizarre or strange behavior, speech, writing or thinking
- Extreme dependency on faculty or staff, including spending much of his or her spare time visiting during office hours or at other times
- Marked change in personal hygiene
- Talk of suicide, either directly or indirectly, such as "I won’t be around to take that exam anyway" or "I'm not worried about not getting a job because I won’t need one"
When in doubt about making a referral, please contact the Goodwin College therapist.
When to Make a Referral
- The problem is beyond your expertise
- You are not comfortable with the situation
- Personality differences interfere with your ability to help
- You know the student or family personally and would not be objective
- The student is reluctant to talk to you even though he or she acknowledges there is a problem
- You are stressed, pressed for time or not feeling well
- The student reminds you of someone you know who has a similar problem
- The danger is immediate and there must be direct intervention because of danger to the student or someone else
Tips on Responding to Concerns about a Student
Faculty and staff should determine their personal comfort levels with becoming “involved” with student problems. Serving as the main source of support to a troubled student can sometimes be overwhelming, frightening and/or tiring. It is important that faculty and staff know their limitations in providing assistance to students and are aware of times when a referral would be the best option.
- Speak to student in a direct, concerned and caring manner.
- Offer the opportunity for the student to tell his or her story.
- Demonstrate an understanding of what the student discloses.
- Clarify vague, confusing or disrupting student disclosures and ask "What do you mean by...?"
- Be clear about the reasons you are concerned and say "I am worried about you because…"
- Inquire how the student is attempting to respond to the problem. If possible, develop response options together.
- You should refer a student to the therapist when you believe the student’s problems go beyond your own expertise or when a student indicates that he or she is looking for someone to talk to.
- Help the student see that there are options and professionals on and off campus that can help (i.e. doctor, parent, friend, congregation, 2-1-1, professor, registrar’s office, advisor, tutoring lab, financial aid, etc.).
- One way of introducing the topic of a referral to the therapist is to summarize for the student what you see as the content of the problem. Point out the emotional responses that you have heard from the student with an expression of concern, for example, "You sound very upset about that. I have found that other students who have felt that way have benefited from talking to the therapist at Goodwin. How would you feel about that?"
- If you are feeling uncomfortable or unprepared with the student’s distress, be honest with the student and say “This is not my area of expertise; however, I do care that you feel better. That is why I think that the therapist could best assist you. Can we call the therapist now?”
- Because the student might initially resist the idea of counseling, be caring but firm in your judgment that therapy would be helpful.
- Explain that counseling is confidential and that information about the student cannot be released to other colleges, family, professors, friends and others without the student’s written permission, with the exception that the student is in danger or harming him or herself or others.
- Explain that services are free to Goodwin College students.
- Therapy works best when the student actually wants help. Even though you believe therapy might be helpful to the student, coercing a student to go to the therapist does not work. In order to maintain your positive relationship with the student, do not force him or her to contact the therapist. If you are wondering about the seriousness of the problem or if the student is ambivalent, call the therapist to discuss next steps.
- Once the student has agreed that counseling services might be helpful, suggest that the student make an appointment with the therapist.
- Once a student contacts the therapist, an appointment will be scheduled. Scheduling the appointment will usually take place within a few days depending largely on the flexibility of the student’s schedule. In an emergency, as defined either by you or the student, arrangements will be made to see the student more promptly.
- Sometimes it is useful to more actively assist students in scheduling an initial appointment. You can call the therapist or walk the student over to the therapist’s office.
- If the student is hesitant about reaching out to the therapist, but does want the help, faculty and staff can complete the Consent to Contact Form with the student and send to the therapist. The therapist will then reach out to the student.
- If you need help on deciding whether or not a referral is appropriate, please contact the therapist for advice.
- Be knowledgeable in advance about the difference between the services of the Office of AccessAbility Services and the Office of Counseling Services.
Consent to Contact Form
If a student expresses to a faculty or staff member that he or she would like to see the therapist but feels uncomfortable making the initial contact, please complete the Consent to Contact form with the student and submit to the therapist. On the form, the student can specify the information that can be shared between the therapist and the referring party. This will be important when following up with the student or therapist.
After Making a Referral
- If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact the therapist at (860) 218-1791.
- It is reassuring to know that a student who has been referred has actually made or kept an appointment. The best way to gain this reassurance is to ask the student directly. The therapist can share information that the student specified he or she is willing to share on the consent to contact form.