Counselling Services How and When to Refer Students for Counselling

How and When to Refer Students for Counselling

Below are some of the important indicators to guide faculty in deciding when and how to refer a student for counselling.

Behaviour Changes

  • Any overt expression or thought or intent to harm self or others
  • Change in demeanour e.g, student is more quiet or more aggressive, and mood appears sad, “low,” irritable, agitated, anxious or restless
  • Negative change in quality of work or performance in class assignments/quizzes, sports/extra-curricular activities or other types of performances
  • Disorganised or erratic performance that is uncharacteristic of the student
  • Essays, art or other creative work that contains themes of hopelessness, social isolation, rage or despair

Physical Changes

  • Deterioration of physical appearance or personal hygiene
  • Excessive fatigue, diminished or greatly increased appetite (visible changes in weight)
  • Change in sleeping patterns
  • Appearing bleary-eyed or any indication of substance use

Personality Changes

  • Direct statements indicating distress, family problems or other difficulties
  • Unprovoked anger or hostility
  • Irritability or constant anxiety
  • More withdrawn or more energetic than usual
  • Persistent sadness or being tearful
  • Expressions of hopelessness or worthlessness.

“At Risk” Factors

  • Essays or papers that focus on despair, suicide or death
  • Statements indicating that the student is “going away for a long time”
  • Giving away possessions
  • Severe depression
  • Self-injurious or self-destructive behaviour
  • Other behaviour that appear out of control

Other Factors to Consider

  • Drop in grades/GPA
  • Personal losses: e.g., death of a family member, loved one; break-up of a relationship
  • Failures in class, sports other activities; rejection
  • Expressions of concern about a student by peers
  • Your own observation or ‘gut’ feeling that something is wrong 

What to Do

Make contact: Tell the student you need to see him/her and talk to the student in person.
Calmly express your concern; tell the student you are worried and why.

Some Possibilities

  • “In your essay, you wrote about death and dying. It seems to me that you’ve looked sad lately. I wanted to check in with you and see if everything’s OK.”
  • “You haven’t seemed yourself lately. You’ve been missing class (assignments) and I wondered if there’s something getting in the way of your being here (completing the homework).”
  • “This seems to be a difficult time for you. WE can figure this out. WE can get some help from a counsellor who knows more about this, if you are willing to try this option (Call or email us at C3A)”

Be aware of your role and what you can do to help the student

Being a mentor, you can express your genuine concern for your student. You can also actively listen, be supportive, help him/her with decision-making and make referrals for counselling.