Counseling Center

Students in college and graduate school often are under a great deal of stress. Sometimes things become so overwhelming that a student can’t function the way that they usually can. Often, it is those closest to the student – friends, family members, significant others, and faculty or staff members – who are close enough to see the first signs of a problem. You may not be able to solve the problems or be a counselor, but you can be in a good position to support the student in getting the help they may need. We hope that this information will help you consider your options in referring a student for assistance.

How to Refer a Student for Counseling

 The following information will guide you through the process of talking with a student about your concerns and suggesting appropriate resources.

  • Before beginning, think over what are the most important things you’d like to say.
  • Try to find a time when neither of you is upset, tired, or not feeling well for any reason.
  • Focus should be on your concern and specific, behavioral things you have seen or heard which cause your concern. E.G.:
    • You haven’t been to class for 2 weeks. You even missed a test yesterday.
    • I don’t see you anymore – you are in your room a lot.
    • The text message you sent me last night, about not being able to take it anymore, really worried me.
    • I’m concerned about your eating (or sleeping) lately.
    • You seem sad or down.
  • Avoid labels, judgments, or critical statements. E.G:
    • What’s wrong with you!?
    • You always….
    • You shouldn’t feel worried about that – it’s no big deal.
  • Listen carefully to what the student says in response. Active listening means you try to hear and understand what they say before thinking ahead to your next move. Try to avoid using the word “but.” Be prepared to listen to some history about the problem. This can be a springboard to making suggestions (below) E.G:
    • Man, you’ve been through a lot lately. No wonder you are having trouble focusing. You have a lot on your mind.
    • I know it’s embarrassing to ask for help; I’m glad you’re talking to me.
    • It sounds like you’ve been discouraged by your past experiences.
  • Offer specific ideas about what the student might do. Try to tie the recommendation to something the student said if you can. Here is more information about making an appointment.
    • Have you talked to a counselor about this?
    • I could give you the Seattle Crisis Line number if you’re interested (206.461.3222).
    • The Counseling Center is open right now – I could walk you over if you like.
    • I’m not sure exactly what you need to get through this, but maybe someone else does.
    • Why don’t you look at the Counseling Center website and it may give you some ideas about the services.
    • You’ve been dealing with this a long time; maybe it’s time to try something different. You could make an appointment to consult with someone – you don’t have to commit to anything up front.
  • Be hopeful about what the suggestions might be able to do to help.
    • A therapist could help you to sort out all these thoughts and feelings so you can better make a decision.
    • I care about you and I want to help, but I’m not sure how to best help you. A counselor knows more about these types of problems.
  • Follow-up. Let the student know you care (don’t push for details, just ask if they tried the suggestion). If the appointment did not go well, they might want to tray another person or place for a better fit.

How can I ensure that the student I am concerned about follows through with counseling?

The first thing you can try is ask the student. You don’t have to ask for details, but could ask if they decided to seek help, are making appointments, etc. Due to state law and professional ethics, client records are held to high standards of privacy and confidentiality. The Counseling Center cannot release any information without signed authorization from the student. Often, students are willing to allow their counselor to consult with a friend, family member, or concerned staff member if there is a specific reason. Again, the best idea is to speak with the student about this directly.