A first and very important step, in assisting a student, is to be familiar with the symptoms of distress. Pay close attention to direct communications, as well as implied or hidden feelings.
Don't ignore strange, inappropriate or unusual behavior. Talk to the student in question privately, in a direct and matter-of-fact manner, indicating your observations and concerns. Early feedback, intervention, and/or referral can prevent more serious problems from developing.
Offer Support and Assistance
Your interest, attentive listening and concern may be pivotal in helping a troubled student. Avoid criticism or sounding judgmental. Summarize the essence of what the individual has told you as a way of clarifying the situation. Validate feelings while also encouraging positive action by helping the student to define the problems and generate coping strategies.
Consult with Counseling Center Staff
If you feel "in over your head," it may be helpful to call the Counseling Center and talk to a counseling professional about your concerns. S/he can give you feedback regarding the best way to help the student, as well as suggestions for initiating a referral to the Center or other appropriate resources.
Refer to the Counseling Center
Know your limits as a helper: Only go so far as your expertise and resources allow. When a student needs more help than you are able or willing to give, a referral is appropriate. The following may be helpful in making an individual referral to the Center:
- Talk to the student about the services and procedures of Counseling and Psychological Services. An initial appointment can be made by phone (359-2366) or in person (Martin Hall 225). It is important to let the student know that services are confidential and are free to enrolled EWU students. Walk-in services are available most afternoons from 1:00 to 4:00p.m.
- It is important to provide the individual with a sense of control about his/her decision to follow your recommendation. In most cases, encouraging the student to initiate his/her own appointment with the Counseling Center is preferred. Sometimes, however, offering the use of one's phone or walking the student to the Center may be beneficial.
- In rare cases, a student might be in crisis or may demonstrate behavior that elicits concern about personal safety or ability to function (impaired judgment/rationality). In such cases, you are urged to make telephone contact with the Counseling Center while the student is present and/or accompany the individual to the Center. If a student is not compliant, consultation with the Center is strongly recommended. A counselor can help determine whether emergency treatment is necessary.
- It is important to follow up with a student after you make a referral. This conveys your interest. You can also help reduce the stigma associated with counseling by not avoiding the topic, though such discussions should be held privately.
The staff of Counseling and Psychological Services are required by law and professional ethics to protect the confidentiality of all communication between therapist and client (except in cases where harm to self or others is indicated). Consequently, Center staff cannot discuss with others the details of a student's situation, or even indicate whether the student is being seen in therapy, without the student's signed consent. It is therefore suggested that you ask a student directly if s/he followed up on your recommendation to make contact with the Counseling Center.