How to Help a Friend or Loved One
Referring a student for counseling can sometimes be a daunting task. Below are guidelines on when and how to refer a student for counseling.
- When the student's problem involves any area outside of what you normally discuss with them, particularly in regard to emotional, mental, behavioral, or social concerns.
- When you think the student is dealing with a psychological problem.
- When the student is acting in ways that are harmful to herself/himself or others.
- When you notice a change in the student's behavior (e.g. missing classes for long periods of time, looking depressed, frequent crying, asking about psychological problems).
- In a caring, respectful, and direct manner suggest that he/she may need to speak with a professional counselor/therapist.
- Inform the student about the Counseling Center. This will help to alleviate anxiety and increase the chance that a student will follow through with an appointment. Let the student know that the Counseling Center can provide resources to help with many different kinds of problems.
- Remind them that their visits and the things discussed during their visits will be kept with strict confidentiality.
- It is generally best to have the student make the actual contact; however, it may be more helpful for you to make the telephone call or accompany the student to our office if the student is in too much distress to do so themselves. This shows the student you genuinely care and may provide a sense of security.
- If the student is reluctant to go in for counseling, suggest that he or she see a physician or a trusted religious authority. Initially some people will 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 best to get the student's permission first. Know that the counselor will not reciprocrate information about the student unless he/she has written permission in-hand to do so.
After the Referral
- Once the student is in counseling, it is best not to ask 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 individuals.
- 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 that you are doing what you can to connect the person with resources that can help them improve.