How to Refer a Student to Personal Counseling
When you have decided that a student might benefit from personal counseling, speak directly to the student in a caring and straightforward, matter-of-fact manner in private. Be specific regarding the observed behaviors that have raised your concern and avoid making generalizations, interpretations, or attributing anything negative to the student's personality or character. Share information about personal counseling services and offer to assist the student in making contact. When making a referral it is often helpful to:
- Remind students that seeking help is a sign of strength and courage rather than a sign of weakness or failure.
- Normalize going to counseling (e.g., "many students go to counseling to talk about their stress, relationships, or academic difficulties...")
- Discuss the benefits of counseling (e.g., "talking to a counselor might help you feel less alone with all that you are going through and to figure out strategies to get back on track academically.")
Except in extreme cases or emergencies, students must be allowed to accept or refuse personal counseling. If the student is skeptical or reluctant for whatever reason, simply express your acceptance of his or her feelings. Some other points to share with reluctant students are:
- Students do not have to be in "crisis" to utilize and benefit from personal counseling.
- Students may choose to meet with a counselor on a one-time basis without making a commitment to on-going counseling.
- Any contact and information shared by a student with a personal counselor is kept confidential and is not shared with faculty/staff, parents, etc., without the student's written permission.
If the student emphatically says "No," then respect his or her decision and leave the situation open should the student decide to reconsider.
If the student agrees to the referral, with the student present, call the Student Services Administrative Assistant on your campus to make an appointment. Many faculty/staff members choose to walk the student to Personal Counseling and Consultation Services to make an appointment or to simply introduce the student to a personal counselor or to the Student Services Administrative Assistant. Counselors will see a student without an appointment if schedules permit, and in all emergency situations. You may chose to follow up with the student at a later date to show your continued interest, even if he or she did not accept a referral. While we encourage faculty/staff to share their concerns about students with a personal counselor, counselors must maintain confidentiality regarding any information the student has disclosed to them in a counseling appointment, unless the student has given written permission for the information to be shared.
If the student's academic performance is suffering because of the behaviors you have observed, those issues should be discussed with the student early on. Students often need assistance in making the connection between their life outside of the classroom (i.e., their choices, their life circumstances and their emotional issues) and the impact these matters have on their academic success. While it is important that students feel cared about, it is also essential that students clearly understand their problematic behaviors and the academic consequences of their behaviors. Personal counseling can be mentioned and recommended (see above) as one of many services at MCC that help support students. Students should not be "mandated" to meet with a personal counselor, nor should counseling be used as a form of discipline.