When and How to Refer a Student to the Counseling Center: A Guide for Faculty, Staff, and Advisors
Resources for Staff, Faculty and Advisors
- Just In Case App
- Statement of Self Care (Syllabus Statement) (PDF)
- Red Card: Recognizing and Reaching Out to Students of Concern (Westchester Campus)
- Red Card: Recognizing and Reaching Out to Students of Concern (Law School) (PDF)
When and How to Refer a Student to the Counseling Center
- The Role of the Faculty, Staff, and Advisors
- Signs Suggesting the Need for Referral
- Emergency Contacts
- Guidelines When Making a Referral
- Common Student Concerns About Counseling
- The Counseling Process
- Classroom and Community Support
The Role of the Faculty, Staff, and Advisors
As a faculty, staff member, or advisor, you may be the first person to recognize students who would benefit from referral to the Counseling Center. As you know, students may turn to anyone they perceive as knowledgeable, caring and trustworthy during times of need. Although situational factors such as class size or demands within your office may affect the type of interactions you have with students, here are some suggestions on how you can establish rapport with students and understand their concerns:
- Talk with the student in private.
- Listen carefully. Repeat back to the student the essence of what he/she told you.
- Express concern. Be specific about your observations and reasons for concern.
- Respect the student's values and beliefs. Avoid criticizing or sounding judgmental.
Students will appreciate your interest, concern, and willingness to listen. In addition, if the situation warrants, you have also begun to establish the trust and rapport necessary in making an effective referral to the Counseling Center.
Signs Suggesting the Need for a Referral
- Consistent discrepancy between potential and actual achievement
- Poor time management and insufficient study habits
- Repeated absences from class with little or no work completed
- Excessive procrastination and uncharacteristically poor work
- Repeated requests for special consideration
- Morbid and depressing themes on written assignments
- Inability to choose courses or a major
- Career indecision or unrealistic career expectations
- Dissatisfaction with academic major
- Shifts in discussion from advisement on coursework to personal issues
- Marked change in personal hygiene
- Impaired speech or garbled and disjointed thoughts
- High levels of irritability, including unruly, aggressive, violent and/or abrasive behavior
- Dramatic weight gain or loss
- Normal emotions that are displayed to an extreme degree or for a prolonged period of time, e.g., tearfulness or nervousness
- Frequent falling asleep in class
- Stress-related somatic complaints
- Excessive drinking, drug abuse or drug dependence
- Physical complaints
- Behavior that regularly interferes with decorum of classroom
- Sudden distancing from faculty or other students
- Dependency on advisor/ "Hanging around"
- Traumatic changes in personal relationships due to loss or death
- Relationship (family, friendship, roommate) problems
- Identity and acculturation issues
Emergency Situations When You Should Get Help Immediately:
- Expression of suicidal thoughts
- Expression of homicidal thoughts
- Severe loss of emotional control
- Gross impairment of thinking ability
- Loss of connection with reality
- Bizarre behavior
- Contact the Counseling Center ((914) 773-3710) on weekdays between 9 AM and 5 PM.
- After hours, call Pace Security ((914) 773-3400 in PLV or (914) 422-4300 in WP), who will put you in touch with a staff psychologist on call.
- In addition, students may call the 24 hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and a Rape Crisis/Victims Assistance Line at (914) 345-9111.
- In cases of acute risk of violent behavior, always contact and inform security of this threat.
New York City Campus:
- Contact the Counseling Center ((212) 346-1526) on weekdays between 9 AM and 5 PM.
- After hours, call Pace Security ((212) 346-1800) who will put you in touch with a staff psychologist on call.
- In the event of an emergency, students may contact Bellevue Hospital at (212) 562-1000.
- In cases of acute risk of violent behavior, always contact and inform security of this threat.
Guidelines When Making a Referral
- Get to know the procedures and resources available at the Counseling Center. This will increase your comfort in making referrals and increase the likelihood of success in getting students the help they need.
- Use a direct approach with the student and express your concern for his or her welfare. Ask the student if they are talking to anyone about the concern discussed. If the student is not currently getting counseling, it is best that you express your concern and recommendation directly to the student as a suggestion and allow the student to make their own decision. You may also express that the Counseling Center staff has seen many students over the years with feelings and problems similar to theirs, and that we can help them work things out.
- Do not attempt to deceive or trick the student into seeking counseling. Create a positive expectation.
- Make it clear that your recommendation that the student seek counseling represents your best judgment based on your assessment of his/her particular problem(s). Be specific regarding the behaviors that have raised your concerns, and avoid making generalizations about the individual.
- Anticipate student concerns and fears about seeking counseling. Be prepared to address them. Some typical issues are presented in the next section.
- If a student needs help immediately, offer to call the Counseling Center with the student present.
- Information needed to make an appointment:
- Westchester Campuses (914) 773-3710
- New York City Campus (212) 346-1526
Pleasantville Campus, Administration Center, 2nd floor
White Plains Campus, Law School
New York City Campus, 156 William Street, 8th Floor
Hours By Appointment:
Pleasantville, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday to Friday
White Plains, by appointment only
New York City, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday to Friday. Walk-in hours each weekday between 1:00pm and 2:30pm.
Pleasantville Walk-In Clinic (WIC), no appointment needed:
Monday through Friday, from 1:00 to 2:30 PM. WIC provides access to a staff psychologist for up to a half-hour initial meeting. Follow up meetings can be arranged. In addition, faculty, staff, or students who request telephone access to a staff member will be scheduled during WIC times. Availability may be limited and calls are taken on a first come, first serve basis.
- To make an appointment, the student can either call or stop by our office. Faculty and staff can also initiate the call while the student is in their office and then allow the student to schedule the appointment.
- If you call the Counseling Center on behalf of a student, identify yourself and explain to the receptionist that you are assisting a student in making an appointment; provide the receptionist with information as to the level of urgency (immediate need, tomorrow, next week) and a brief description of the behavior that concerns you; then allow the student to speak directly to the receptionist to arrange an appointment. Students will be assigned to a staff psychologist based on staff availability.
- Leave the option open, except in emergencies, for the student to accept or refuse counseling. If the student is skeptical or reluctant for whatever reason, 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/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 is reluctant to accept a referral, or you are not comfortable suggesting it, feel free to call the Counseling Center and share your observations and concerns. Consultations to faculty, staff, students, and concerned parents are a regular part of the services provided by the Counseling Center. A staff psychologist can assist you in determining the most appropriate course of action.
- Client confidentiality prohibits Counseling Center staff from providing you with information about a student whom you have referred. However, it is appropriate for you to check back with the student to determine whether he/she has followed up on your recommendation. Even if the student did not accept your attempted referral, it will show your continued interest and concern.
Common Student Concerns About Counseling
Students often have a number of concerns about counseling and seeking assistance that, if not directly discussed, can deter them from acting upon a referral. It is useful to anticipate these issues and respond to them in a factual, encouraging, and appropriate way.
Concern 1: Only crazy people go to counseling (and I'm not crazy).
Response: I don't think you are crazy. People go to counseling for all kinds of problems. The Pace Counseling Center sees hundreds of students a year for individual and group counseling.
Concern 2: Going for counseling is a sign of weakness. It shows I can't handle my own problems.
Response: You are capable of handling most of your problems. There are some, however, that are difficult to handle alone. Recognizing when you need assistance, and then getting it, is a sign of good problem-solving ability.
Concern 3: Counseling won't work for me. It's not effective. I’ve done it before.
Response: It’s true that there are no guaranteed results. However, there is a high probability that counseling can be helpful. It has worked for a large number of students and it could work for you. Give it a try. Even if it hasn’t helped before, sometimes the right timing and/or counselor can be really helpful.
Concern 4: The counselor will tell other people about my problem.
Response: What you share with a staff psychologist is considered confidential. Information is not released to anyone (parents, friends, instructors) without your permission.
Professional ethics dictate that the sessions conducted by Counseling Center staff are confidential in nature. Information about these sessions or their content will be released only (a) upon a student's written request, (b) in circumstances which would result in clear danger to the individual or others, or (c) as may be required by law. The Counseling Center adheres strictly to this policy.
Faculty and staff members often have an understandable desire to know if a student who has been referred to the Center has actually attended a session and/or if any progress is being made. However, we cannot acknowledge any contact, or lack of it, with a student unless we have their written permission.
This policy can at times be a source of frustration for faculty and staff who want some basic information. This desired information can best be obtained directly from the student. We also encourage students to let the referring faculty and staff member know that he/she kept an appointment. Students are not bound by the promise of confidentiality and are therefore free to disclose any information they wish to share.
The Counseling Process
Students who have not been to counseling may want to know what happens on a first visit to the Counseling Center. We follow a uniform set of procedures which make up our screening process:
- The student completes a personal information form or contact card and statement of informed consent that describes the intake process, confidentiality, and other procedures.
- The student is introduced to a staff psychologist who will conduct the initial interview, which takes anywhere from 45 minutes to one hour. All counseling is conducted in private offices and interview rooms.
- The staff psychologist will help the student explore what brought them to the Counseling Center and what they would like to achieve in counseling. With the information gathered, the Counseling Center staff can decide how to best assist the student.
- If the student is not in crisis, a phone or in-person follow up is scheduled with the student to gather more information and discuss our recommendations and options about how to best address the student's needs. For example, we may suggest a student meet regularly (usually on a weekly basis for 45 minutes) with the staff member with whom the student had their intake appointment. Other options include referral to another staff member and/or group counseling at our Counseling Center or referral to a mental health professional or agency in the community.
- An appointment with our consulting psychiatrist may also be part of the intake and counseling process.
- Counseling Center services are available free of charge to members of the Pace Community.
Classroom and Community Support
In the case of an unexpected crisis (such as the death of a student, faculty, or staff member), you may wish to invite us to your class or organization to provide community support and information. We can assist you in discussing the tragedy and its impact on your class or organization.
In conclusion, remember that reaching out to a student directly and/or to the Counseling Center regarding a student of concern will most likely benefit the student in some important way.