Although some people believe that seeking help or counseling is an admission of weakness and failure, in fact it is a positive and responsible step toward stabilizing mood, being solution focused, and learning symptom reduction.
1. Talk to the student in private when both of you have time and are not rushed or preoccupied.
Give the student your undivided attention. It is possible that just a few minutes of effective listening on your part may be enough to help the student feel comfortable about what to do next.
2. Be direct and non-judgmental. Express your concern in behavioral, nonjudgmental terms.
Be direct and specific. For example, say something like “I’ve noticed you’ve been spending a lot of time alone in your room lately, and I’m concerned,” rather than “Why are you isolating yourself from everyone?“
3. Listen sensitively. Listen to thoughts and feelings in a sensitive, non-threatening way.
Communicate understanding by repeating back the essence of what the student has told you. Try to include both the content and feelings. For example, “It sounds like you’re not accustomed to being away from home and you’re feeling alone here at WLU.” Remember to let the student talk.
4. Refer. Point out that help is available and seeking help is a sign of strength.
Make some suggestions about places to go for help (depending on the problem). Tell the student what you know about the recommended person or service.
5. Follow up.
Following up is an important part of the process. Check with the student later to find out how he or she is doing. Provide support as appropriate.
What to do if the student resists or refuses to seek counseling:
Unless the student is at risk for harm to self or others, counseling remains a voluntary option for students. Despite every effort on your part to facilitate a referral, the student may choose not to follow through on your suggestion that he or she seek counseling. If you find yourself in this situation, continue to express your belief that counseling could be beneficial, inform the counselor of your concern, and keep your offer of help available to the student. Document the process for your personal files should you need to verify in the future your assistance to this student. If a student is at risk for harm to self or others, please report this information to Campus Police (304-336-8021) immediately.
After a referral:
Once a student has begun Counseling, he or she is in a confidential relationship. Often students will come back to you and let you know about their experience. If appropriate, the Counselor may contact you to follow up or to gain additional information.
A referral to Counseling does not the mean the student necessarily will be removed from class or school, face judicial sanctions or remain in treatment. Should you feel additional actions are necessary as a result of the student’s conduct, you should contact the Associate Dean of Student Affairs (304-336-8345) or your academic dean.