WHEN TO REFER
Aside from the signs or symptoms that may suggest the need for counseling, there are other guidelines which may help you define the limits of your involvement with a particular student’s problem. It is important not only to hear what the student is saying, but to be attentive to the non-verbal behaviors as well as the feeling underlying the message. A referral is usually indicated under the following circumstances:
- When a student asks for a referral. However, you need some information from the student to know the best referral for his/her needs. It is also a good idea to explore with the student the urgency of the need. It may be that the student is feeling quite upset and some exploration with you will help the individual feel more comfortable being referred.
- When a student presents a problem or requests information which is outside your range of knowledge.
- A person contemplating suicide. This has the potential of being the most severe of all crises dealt with herein. Although there are wide differences in the seriousness of suicidal thoughts, anytime a student is thinking of it seriously enough to discuss it with you, he or she is probably pretty upset. Although it is important for you to help deal with immediate feelings, a threat to self or others ethically requires strong intervention on the part of the college personnel. In order to assess the severity of the suicidal thought, Northern Wyoming Community College District Counseling Services (NWCCDCS) or the CARE Team should be contacted. Call NWCCDCS, inform the staff of the situation or leave a message. It is possible to save a life by taking quick, effective action.
- When you believe that you have not been able to adequately assist a student. None of us can help everyone we try to help because of personality differences, lack of experience, or a variety of other reasons. When you have the feeling that you have not been helpful, try to be honest with the student and suggest a specific person or agency that would meet the student’s needs.
- Lack of objectivity on your part. You may have a relationship with the student that would make it awkward for you and/or the student to know personal information about the student. For example, you may be in a role which requires you to provide supervision for or evaluation of the student. You may know the parents of the student or be related to an individual about whom the student wishes to speak. You may also be struggling personally with similar issues. Any of these may interfere with your ability to be a nonjudgmental listener and in some cases may even put you in ethical and legal conflicts. It would be better for you and for the student that a referral is suggested.
- If a student is reluctant to discuss a problem with you for some reason. You may sense that the student may not feel comfortable or at ease discussing the problem with you. If the student feels uncomfortable, it is best not to pressure him/her into disclosing information. It would be better to suggest that others are available with whom the student might feel more comfortable sharing certain types of information.
- If a student has physical symptoms. Headaches, dizziness, stomach pain, insomnia can be physical manifestations of psychological states. If students complain about symptoms they suspect (or you suspect) may be connected with their problems, it would be in their best interest to refer them to a professional.
Counseling Services: 307-686-0254 ext. 2011