Guide for Faculty, Staff, and Academic Advisors

1. Tips for Counseling with Students

2. Consultations

3. Signs Suggesting the Need for Referral

4. Emergency Situations

5. How to Make a Referral

6. Classroom and Community Support

Tips for Counseling with Students

Advisement meetings can sometimes take on a counseling-like quality. Faculty members, staff members, and academic advisors may vary in their experience and comfort in adopting or being placed in a personal counselor role.

Here are some tips that will help you establish rapport with students and understand their concerns:

  • Talk with the student in private.
  • Listen carefully.
  • Show interest and concern.
  • Repeat to the student the essence of what he or she has told you. Summarizing your understanding of the student's concern reassures the student that he or she is being understood and allows the student to clarify or correct any misimpressions.
  • Declaratory or absolute statements should be used judiciously; often personal difficulties may have dimensions that are more complex than what is initially described.
  • Treat the student with respect.
  • Students will appreciate your willingness to listen, and if the situation warrants, you will have established the trust necessary for an effective and successful referral to us.

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If you are concerned about a student or situation, but are not sure of how to proceed, call Counseling Services. A counselor will return your call and help you determine an appropriate course of action. Don't carry it all on your shoulders. Consultations are a regular part of our services, and are frequently used by concerned parents and roommates as well as faculty and staff.

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Signs Suggesting the Need for a Referral

Advisement Problems

  • Inability to Choose Courses
  • Unwillingness to Take Required Courses
  • Career Indecision
  • Focus of Advisement Meeting Shifts from Discussion of Coursework to Personal Issues

Academic Problems

  • Excessive Procrastination
  • Uncharacteristically Poor Work
  • Inconsistent Work
  • Repeated Requests for Special Consideration

Interpersonal Interactions

  • Dependency on Advisor/ "Hanging Around"
  • Avoidance of Professor or Other Students
  • Behavior That Regularly Interferes with Decorum of Classroom
  • Complaints from Peers

Behavioral Markers

  • Marked Change in Personal Hygiene
  • Dramatic Weight Gain or Loss
  • Frequent Falling Asleep in Class
  • Irritability, Particularly in Conjunction with Unruly Behavior
  • Impaired Speech or Garbled, Disjointed Thoughts
  • Unusually Soft or Loud Voice, or Unusually Slow or Fast Cadence in Speech
  • Tearfulness or Intense Emotion

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Emergency Situations

Situations that call for you to get help immediately include:

  • Expression of Suicidal Thoughts
  • Expression of Homicidal Thoughts
  • Severe Loss of Emotional Control
  • Gross Impairment in Thinking Ability
  • Bizarre Behavior

In Case of an Emergency:

Contact Counseling Services (256-782-5475) on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.; or after hours, 911 or the  University Police Department (256-782-5050), which can put you in touch with an on-call crisis counselor. In cases of acute risk of violent behavior, always call the police.

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How to Make a Referral

If you become aware that a student is having personal or family problems (for example, illness of a family member), it is often useful to ask: "Are you talking with anyone about this?"

If you feel that a student would benefit from a referral for counseling, and the student is not currently getting counseling, it is usually best to express your concern and recommendation directly to the student. It is also generally better to suggest counseling to a student and allow the student to make his or her own decision. But if a student needs help immediately, offer to call Counseling Services with the student present.

If you call Counseling on behalf of a student, identify yourself and explain to the receptionist that you are assisting a student in making an appointment; then allow the student to speak with the receptionist to arrange an appointment time.

Client confidentiality prohibits us from providing you with information about a student whom you have referred to us; but it is almost always appropriate for you to check back with the student, to ascertain whether he or she has followed through on your recommendation. This communicates your continued interest and concern.

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Classroom and Community Support:
When unexpected crises occur (such as the death of a student), you may wish to invite us into your classroom or organization to provide community support. We can assist you in discussing the tragedy and its impact on your class or organization. We also welcome your interest in allowing us to provide proactive psycho-educational workshops on such topics as stress management, listening and communication skills, or other subjects relevant to your student group.

Counseling Services is staffed by professional, trained counselors that are sensitive to the many issues affecting college students today. We provide free individual and group counseling for personal issues, and educational workshops pertaining to personal issues (for a list of those eligible to receive free counseling, see our "General Information" page). Contact us if your academic area or department has a special request.

Counseling Services is open from 8 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday (including summers). For appointments, call (256) 782-5475 for a consultation, or to help a student schedule an initial appointment.

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Courtesy of Boston University