Responding to student emergencies
In emergency situations involving students who are unwilling or unable to seek help on their own, faculty members may call any of the following offices:
- The Center for Counseling & Student Development (831-2141)
- Student Health Service
- University Police and/or Ambulance (911).
After hours the Center provides an “on call” service for psychological emergencies that occur after the normal University work-day and on weekends. The Student Health Service phone number (831-2226)
should be called. You will be asked for your name and phone number so that the “on call” professional can return your call.
A Referral Guide
Most students experience significant changes in their lives while in college. They may leave their homes, communities, and even familiar cultures to come to Newark and live somewhat independently, often for the first time. All students must manage the special challenges of academic life. Undergraduate students typically confront important educational, career, and personal decisions while developing a personal identity that marks their maturation from adolescents to young adults. Returning adult students often have to cope with the competing demands of family, work and college. Graduate students may experience stress from all of these sources. Under such difficult circumstances, students may seek the assistance of others.
While many students handle these transitions by themselves or with family and friends, a growing number want or need help beyond what their support systems provide. For many years at the Center for Counseling and Student Development, we have seen a steady demand from students for counseling services. Last year over 9% of the full-time undergraduate and graduate student population came to the Center for help. There is also evidence to suggest that non-traditional students and those belonging to racial and ethnic minorities may have unique difficulties in adjusting to the University. For these students, counseling services may be especially helpful.
The number of requests for consultation from faculty members has increased dramatically over the past several years. The Center welcomes this concern from faculty members for the well-being of the students and offers the following information for guidance.
When might professional counseling be beneficial?
The reasons that individuals seek help are as varied as people themselves. These may range from wishing to solve a longstanding problem to desiring to enhance one’s personal development. In any case, the following indicators might be useful in deciding whether or not to refer a student to the Center for Counseling and Student Development. To prevent possible over-interpretation of a single or an isolated behavior, it is advisable to look for clusters of signs which appear at approximately the same time.
- Fundamental or traumatic changes in personal relationships
Increased stress and psychological strain often result when an individual experiences significant changes, such as: the death of a family member or close friend, difficulties in marriage or family relationships, divorce, pregnancy, changes in family responsibilities, or difficulties in other significant relationships.
- Changes in mood or behavior
Actions which are inconsistent with an individual’s normal behavior can signify serious problems. Signs include: withdrawal from others, asocial activity (e.g. lying, stealing), spells of unexplained crying or outbursts of anger, or unusual irritability or agitation.
- References to suicide
It is clear that referring to suicide is sometimes the only way a person can let it be known that he/she is in great distress. Distinguishing between serious threats or passing idle thoughts of suicide is difficult. Concluding that a student’s suicidal talk is simply a bid for attention is extremely risky, and a judgment about the seriousness of the situation should be made in consultation with a mental health professional. This is particularly true when an individual talks about or alludes to details of how, when, or where he or she may be contemplating suicide. In this case, immediate referral to counseling is necessary.
In the case of a suicide attempt, immediately call the University emergency number (911).
- Requests for someone to listen
The desire for assistance in dealing with a problem may be stated directly or indirectly. For this reason, it is important not only to attend to the content of what a student says but also to understand the intentions and feelings underlying his or her message. Listening involves hearing the way things are being said, noticing the tone used, and observing the expressions and gestures employed. In fact, having someone listen attentively to an expression of a problematic feeling or thought is often a cathartic experience which, in and of itself, can result in the speaker feeling somewhat better.
- Anxiety and depression
Anxiety and depression are two of the more common psychological disturbances which can present significant problems for students. Both of these rather common emotional states, when they become prolonged or severe, can impair an individual’s normal functioning.
- Psychosomatic symptoms
Individuals who experience tension-induced headaches, nausea, physical pains with no apparent organic cause, loss of appetite or excessive eating, insomnia or excessive sleeping, or gastrointestinal distress may be having psychosomatic symptoms. The symptoms are real for that individual, and so is the pain. The course of treatment often involves psychological counseling to both relieve the stress and understand its causes.
- Drug and alcohol abuse
Evidence of excessive drinking, drug abuse, or drug dependence is almost always indicative of psychological problems.
- Career choice problems
It is rather common for college students to struggle with career indecision or uncertainty. Often these concerns come from confusion about one’s values, interests and abilities, not knowing what the world of work offers, and/or setting unrealistic career goals. Chronic indecisiveness or conflict about choices can be reflective of a different and more significant problem with decision-making. In all cases, students often benefit from assistance in developing and implementing career goals.
- Learning problems
Many students find the demands of college-level academic work to be greater than they anticipated. While it is expected that all students will go through some adjustment period in this regard, those who demonstrate a consistent discrepancy between their performance and their potential may be in need of assistance. Poor study habits, incapacitating test anxiety, or repeated absences from class are all issues which might be addressed in counseling.
- Retention issues
Research conducted at the University has shown that counseling services are effective in combatting student attrition. Students who are considering dropping out of school, contemplating a transfer to another institution of higher education, or worrying about possible academic failure may find counseling to be a useful resource during their decision-making.
What is the role of the faculty in assisting students who have problems?
The stress of academic, social, family, work, and/or financial concerns are often interrelated and may result in a student turning to a faculty member for help. In fact, anyone who is perceived as knowledgeable, caring, and trustworthy may be a potential resource in times of trouble.
Faculty members are often in a good position to identify students who are troubled. Timely expressions of interest and concern may be critical factors in helping students solve problems that are interfering with academic survival and success.
Is consultation available?
The Center for Counseling and Student Development provides consultation services for students, staff, professionals, and faculty. These consultations often focus on a concern for an individual, behavioral problems which occur in classrooms, or other issues that may have important psychological dimensions. The staff will attempt to respond to requests for consultation as soon as daily schedules permit. Please tell the receptionist if you think the situation is an emergency requiring immediate attention.
When to refer?
Not every student needs professional counseling. Sometimes simply listening and offering encouragement and empathy can help a student feel understood. If you want to let a student know that his or her concerns are normal and expected, be sure not to minimize the problems in doing so. What is a simple solution in your view may be harder to imagine for another person.
If distressing circumstances are affecting a student’s well-being or ability to make satisfactory academic progress, a referral for counseling may be in order. Referrals are usually indicated in the following situations:
- A student presents a problem or requests infor-mation which is outside your range of knowledge;
- You feel that personality differences which cannot be resolved between you and the student will interfere with your efforts to help the student;
- The problem is personal, and you know the student on other than a professional basis (friend, neighbor, relative, etc.);
- A student is reluctant to discuss a problem with you for some reason;
- You do not believe your counseling with the student has been effective.
How to refer?
When a faculty member determines that a student might benefit from professional counseling, it is usually best that the student be spoken to in a direct, straight-forward fashion in which concern for his or her welfare is shown. It is recommended that faculty make it clear that this suggestion represents his or her best judgment based on observations of the student’s behavior. Specific feedback about behaviors of concern is recommended. Above all, it is not advisable to attempt to deceive or trick the student into seeking counseling.
Except in emergencies, the option must be left open for the student to accept or refuse counseling. If the student is skeptical or reluctant, simply express your acceptance of those feelings so that your own relationship with the student is not jeopardized. Give the student an opportunity to consider other alternatives by suggesting that he or she might need some time to think it over. If the student emphatically says “no,” then respect that decision, and again leave the situation open for possible reconsideration at a later time.
If the student agrees to the referral, you may call the Center for Counseling and Student Development (831- 2141) to make an appointment. In some cases, the student will prefer to make the appointment. In either case, the student’s first contact with the Center will be an assessment appointment in which the student and the counselor make decisions about the type of help needed. Assessment appointments are usually scheduled within several days of the student’s request to be seen at the Center for Counseling and Student Development. Students requiring immediate help are seen on an emergency basis. You should follow up with the student at a later date to show your continued interest even if he or she did not accept your attempted referral.
What about confidentiality?
It is important for members of the University community to understand that the interviews conducted at the Center for Counseling and Student Development are confidential in nature. Information about those interviews or the content of such interviews cannot be released except upon a student’s written request, in circumstances which would result in clear danger to the individual or others, or as may be required by law. The Center adheres very strictly to this policy.
If a faculty member is interested in a student’s contact with the Center, information can best be obtained directly from the student. It should be noted that students are not bound by the same promises of confidentiality that professional psychologists are obliged to keep.
In some instances, a student may want the Center to share certain information with a faculty member. This can be done by the student giving the Center a written authorization which specifies the purpose and the content of such a disclosure.
Service entitlements for students
All students eligible to pay the Student Health Fee are entitiled to a thorough assessment and recommendation for couseling. Both the counseling and psychiatric services of the Center for Counseling and Student Development are intended to provide short-term assistance to students in dealing with personal, career, and educational concerns which may be barriers to their academic progress.
After an initial assessment of a student’s concerns, the psychologists and/or psychiatrists will determine if an individual’s needs may best be met by the Center’s services or are beyond the scope of those services. In the latter cases, such individuals will receive a referral to other sources of assistance, on or off-campus.
The Center does not provide forensic services that involve litigation or require court testimony.
Center for Counseling and Student Development psychiatrists may prescribe medications to assist students engaged in the counseling process. Students who are receiving counseling services from off-campus sources should use those service providers for desired or required medications.
How does career counseling relate to academic advisement?
The Center for Counseling and Student Development, in conjunction with the Bank of America Career Services Center, offers a wide variety of career development services to University students. The Center attempts to help students make realistic assessments of their interests, values, and abilities and gain useful information about academic majors and the world of work. At the University, faculty members or other specially trained personnel act as advisors for undergraduate students. Students who come to the Center seeking such advisement are referred to faculty members, academic departments, and/or various advisement centers on campus.
Are referrals to other sources of assistance possible?
Sources of assistance for students are not limited to professional counseling, but may include referral to a physician, the Office of Residence Life, Office of the Dean of Students, parents, a resident advisor, a member of the clergy, etc. For this reason, knowledge of people, offices, and agencies that can be of service to the student is of primary importance. Students become discouraged and frustrated when they feel passed along from office to office without receiving the assistance needed. If you are unsure of the appropriate place to send a student for specific information or help, call the Center for Counseling and Student Development (831-2141) for information and consultation as to the various sources of help on campus.
What is the overall mission and goals of the Center?
The mission of the Center for Counseling and Student Development is to foster student learning by promoting psychological well-being so that students can be more successful in their academic, personal, and career pursuits. The activities and programs of the Center are intended to help with one or more of the following: reducing psychological symptoms, coping with life events and developmental tasks, improving interpersonal skills and relationships, and increasing self-knowledge and problem-solving ability. Essential to the Center mission is promoting equality and respect for individual and cultural differences. Consultation services are available to the entire University community, whether to enhance student well-being, to increase the understanding of student culture, or to improve the ability of faculty and staff to meet student needs.
Center for Counseling & Student Development
261 Perkins Student Center, Newark, DE 19716