Referral Guide 2 for Staff & Faculty
Identifying Students Who May Benefit from a Referral
People dealing with personal concerns or problems tend to show signs that they are struggling in some way. The following indicators may be useful in assessing whether or not a referral should be made:
- Talking about Suicide: If a student talks or writes about suicide, this should be taken seriously. Suicidal thoughts are in themselves not necessarily dangerous but, if they include actual plans for suicidal behaviors, the severity of the danger to the student increases dramatically. Suicide is often considered as an option when the person feels hopeless, trapped, out-of-control, and/or depressed. To make the assumption that talk of suicide is aimed solely toward getting attention can be a potentially fatal mistake. If you become aware of a student who is thinking about suicide, please make an immediate referral to the Counseling Center. You can also call us for a consultation if you are unsure of an appropriate intervention or if the student is reluctant to take your referral. If a student clearly states the intent to commit suicide, call University Police (914) 251-6911.
- Stating a Need for Help: Students will often come to faculty or staff members with direct requests for assistance. Through talking with the student, you may feel the problems are beyond your scope of knowledge or power to change. Listening carefully to students and their concerns can provide ample evidence to support your decision to refer. If a student comes to you, he/she obviously feels that the relationship with you is important enough to value your opinion and response.
- Observable Changes: Some students do not directly tell you that there is a problem but their behaviors can be telling indicators. Distinct changes in academic performance, withdrawal from others, changes in class participation, crying, outbursts of anger, increased or decreased activity, and poor attendance are examples of behavioral changes that you may observe. Severe depression, extreme activity level, conversations that do not make sense, and a marked decline in personal hygiene are examples of possibly serious psychological problems. Any of these observable changes may merit a referral to the Counseling Center.
- Psychosomatic Complaints: Students who report physical illness or symptoms that cannot be supported by medical evidence may be experiencing psychological problems. Psychosomatic symptoms are very real for the student and should not be treated lightly. Tension headaches, changes in eating patterns, sleep disturbances, fatigue, stomach aches, and other physical pain symptoms are some examples of psychosomatic complaints.
- Alcohol and Drug Abuse: Coming to class or a meeting when intoxicated or high is a sign that drug and/or alcohol abuse is a serious problem. Often people drink or take drugs as a way to cope with and alleviate other problems in their life. Unfortunately, the substance abuse itself becomes a problem, one that interferes with social, academic, and work functioning.
- Academic Problems: Students who have noticeable negative changes in their academic performance also may be feeling overwhelmed with other areas of their lives. Some students come to classes with difficulty concentrating, performing well on exams, and achieving academically. If the possibility of a learning disability exists, a counselor can meet with a student for a consultation appointment to discuss evaluation and treatment options.
Please note that we are not in a position to make a judgement concerning the validity of concerns such as, poor concentration, attendance in class or exams, or a requested leave of absence. We feel that Professors, Residence Life staff, and others, who have more ongoing contact with the student are in a better position to make decisions about the academic work of a student than the Counseling Center, where we may only see the student for a single initial appointment. In certain cases, where we have seen a student over an extended period of time in individual counseling, we may be able to make recommendations.
- Additional Considerations in Making a Referral: Along with the factors listed above, faculty and staff members should also take into account the following situations when considering making a referral:
- A student asks for assistance with a problem that is outside of your range of knowledge.
- Helping the student with the problem would compromise and/or change the status of your relationship with the student (e.g.: a student asking for money, a place to live, access to contacting you at home if in crisis)
- The student feels uncomfortable talking to you about the problem.
- The assistance and support you have already provided does not seem to be addressing the problem effectively.
- You and the student have personality differences or conflicts that cannot be resolved and would interfere with the help you might provide.
- You find yourself feeling overwhelmed, overly responsible for, and worried about the personal safety of the student.
- The student is disrupting others. A referral to the Counseling Center is appropriate if the student is a significant and ongoing disturbance to others.
How to Make a Referral for Psychological Counseling
If a student approaches you with a problem, take the time to listen in a non-judgmental and respectful manner. If you wish to approach the student with your concerns, do so directly and state your concerns clearly. The following recommendations may help to make the process of providing a referral easier:
- Do not attempt to make a referral when the student is so upset and confused that he/she cannot understand or listen to you. Wait until the student has calmed down enough to be able to converse and respond to your suggestions.
- Suggest in a caring, supportive manner that the student may benefit from meeting with a counselor at the Counseling Center. You may want to explain the following:
- Counseling at the Counseling Center is confidential. This means that information about the student cannot be released to other Purchase College offices, family, professors, etc. without the student's written permission (the exception being if the student is in danger of harming him/herself or others).
- The services are free to currently registered, full-and part-time students.
- The first meeting is an intake/consultation session where the counselor listens to concerns and then helps the student to identify ways to effectively address these concerns.
- Give the student the Counseling Center phone number (914) 251-6390. The student can call from your office or from home or their cellphone. No appointments can be made for a student by a third party without the student directly speaking to the office manager and asking for an appointment.
- If you feel that the student is in crisis, you can call the Counseling Center or have the student call from your office. Tell the Counseling Center office manager that this is an "emergency" and she will connect you with a counselor immediately. If appropriate, the student will be scheduled for a crisis appointment that day. If you are not able to reach the Counseling Center and you beleive the student will have difficulty keeping themself or anyone else safe you can call University Police at (914) 251-6911.
Copyright - Counseling Center, State University of New York at Buffalo.