Faculty and Staff Referral Guide
Morgan State University Counseling Center Faculty-Staff Referral Guide
Tips for Referring Students to the Counseling Center
--When to Refer a Student for Counseling
--How the Counseling Center Operates
--Suggestions for Making Successful Referrals
This guide is written to assist faculty and staff in making referrals to the Counseling Center: identifying situations in which a student might benefit from talking with a counselor and suggesting ways to increase the possibility of a successful referral.
Counseling is a growth process through which students are helped to define goals, make decisions, and solve problems related to personal, social, academic, and career concerns.
Students entering the University must learn to manage the special challenges of academic life in addition to making career decisions, learning to integrate themselves into a new environment, and coping with the stresses of daily life. In addition, young adult students are typically developing a personal identity that marks their maturation from adolescence to adulthood while living more independently from their families and previous support systems. Many students also have to cope with the competing demands of work, family, and college responsibilities. Counseling helps students to identify strengths, sources of emotional support, and ways to begin the process of change and growth to better meet these challenges.
COUNSELING CENTER HOURS
The Counseling Center is staffed by five licensed counselors and psychologists and provides individual and group counseling to the Morgan student body. The Center hours are Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., with emergency coverage evenings and weekends via an on-call system.
Only students who are enrolled in classes for the current semester are eligible for Counseling Center services.
THE ROLE OF FACULTY AND STAFF
A faculty or staff member may be in a unique position to observe a student's behavior and identify problems. A student may also turn to you for help because he or she perceives you as being knowledgeable, caring, or trustworthy. Your expressions of interest and concern may be a critical factor in a student's receiving help. You may call the Counseling Center for a consultation or refer the student to us for counseling.
A student coming to the Counseling Center for the first time has two options for speaking with a counselor: a walk-in (or same day) session or an intake (more thorough, scheduled first meeting) appointment. Walk-In appointments are available from 10 am to 3 pm, Monday-Friday, and students are usually seen with 30 minutes, depending on demand. Intake appointments are scheduled by students at times and dates which are convenient to them. In either case, the goal of the first meeting is to help the student identify the issues that are causing them the most concern.
If a student wishes to continue in counseling, he/she often continues to meet with the same counselor seen in intake or Walk-In.
Meetings between a student and counselor are confidential. Information about counseling sessions, including the fact that a student was seen in counseling, cannot be not released without the student's explicit, written permission. The only exception to this policy is if the student is assessed as being a danger to him/herself or others, or if a student discloses the abuse of someone unable to protect him/herself.
If, as the person who referred a student, you would like to know if the student followed through with an appointment or is continuing in counseling, it is best to ask the student directly. We appreciate your understanding the strictness with which we must enforce the rules of confidentiality to which we are ethically bound.
From time to time, counselors make referrals to other resources on or off campus for specialized services, including psychiatric evaluations and substance abuse treatment. We make every effort to find off-campus services that meet the student's needs and are covered by insurance.
WHEN TO REFER
There are signs or symptoms that may suggest a need for counseling, and there are other guidelines which might help you to define the limits of your involvement:
- A student asks for help beyond your range of knowledge;
- There is a conflict or personality difference between you and the student;
- A student is reluctant to discuss a problem with you;
- A student seems to be too dependent on you;
- You feel uncomfortable dealing with the issue because of your personal or academic relationship with the student;
- You lack the sufficient time to help the student effectively.
INDICATIONS FOR REFERRAL
1. Stated Need for Help
Sometimes a student will ask directly for help, but often the need is communicated indirectly. A student may act distressed, tearful, agitated, or angry, or display intense emotions during a class or conversation. Listening attentively to words, expressions, and gestures may help you identify a student who has a problem. Letting the student know that you are available and concerned can be comforting to him or her.
2. Reference to suicide
Faculty and staff should take seriously students who say that they are contemplating suicide or who allude to details of how, when, or where they might commit suicide. Students sometimes make vague statements about wishing they "weren't here any more"; or they might refer to especially risky behavior that might be life threatening. If you suspect that a student may be suicidal, asking him or her about it will not increase the chances of a suicide attempt or encourage suicidal thoughts if they did not already exist. In fact, asking directly can be experienced as an expression of care and concern that can begin to decrease the suicide risk. In the case of a student who is feeling suicidal, an immediate referral is appropriate. If possible, the best practice is to accompany the student to the Counseling Center to talk with a counselor. If for some reason this is not possible, call us at x3130 to consult about the student.
In some cases, the campus police may need to be called at x 3103 to escort the student to the Counseling Center or to a hospital emergency room.
3. Changes in mood or behavior
Actions that are inconsistent with a person's normal behavior may indicate that she or he is experiencing psychological distress. Withdrawal from usual social interaction, unwillingness to communicate, antisocial acts, spells of crying or outbursts of anger, unusual irritability, or marked changes in academic performance or appearance may be signs that the student could benefit from talking with a counselor.
4. Anxiety or Depression
Anxiety and depression are two of the most common psychological problems that students experience. Each of these can be very debilitating if the problems are prolonged or severe. If a student's normal functioning is impaired, some kind of assistance is recommended. Depending on the severity, anxiety and depression can be treated with counseling and sometimes medication.
Some symptoms of depression include feelings of hopelessness, helplessness or guilt; social withdrawal; loss of interest in formerly pleasurable activities; fatigue; difficulty concentrating; disturbances of sleep or appetite; suicidal thoughts; and sometimes irritability or aggressive behavior.
Symptoms of anxiety may include excessive worrying, agitation, fearfulness, social withdrawal, difficulty concentrating or sleeping, and persistent unwanted thoughts.
As noted above, the Counseling Center participates in National Depression Screening Day (in October) to provide information and brief, confidential screening and referrals. We also maintain a link on our home web page to various types of free, confidential mental health screening (anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and eating disorders).
5. Physical complaints
Students who report physical illness or symptoms that are not supported by medical evaluation may be experiencing psychological problems. These symptoms are very real for the student and should not be taken lightly. Tension headaches, changes in eating or sleeping patterns, fatigue, stomach aches, and other pain could be examples of such psychosomatic complaints.
6. Traumatic Changes in Personal Relationships
Psychological distress often results when an individual experiences traumatic changes in personal relationships. The death of a family member or close friend, trouble with a peer group or roommate, the end of a significant relationship, a divorce of parents, and changes in family responsibilities can all result in psychological difficulties. The stress of academic demands can trigger thoughts and feelings of traumatic events in a student's past. Students also are at risk to be victims of violence and crime. A student may want to talk with a counselor about past or recent sexual or physical abuse or assault which affects her/his current ability to function.
7. Drug or Alcohol Abuse
Coming to school or work intoxicated or high is a sign that drug and/or alcohol abuse is a serious problem. Often people drink or take drugs as a way to cope with and alleviate other problems. The substance abuse can then itself become a problem which interferes with social and academic functioning. One of the screening days sponsored by the Counseling Center is National Alcohol Screening Day in April when students can complete a short screening instrument about alcohol use and its effects on their lives. If a student comes to see us, we can help assess the degree to which drinking or taking recreational drugs is affecting them adversely and can refer them to community treatment programs if appropriate.
8. Academic Problems
Many students experience a difficult transition from high school to college, finding the demands of academic work to be greater than anticipated. While most students go through some adjustment period in this regard, those who demonstrate a consistent discrepancy between their performance and their potential may need assistance. Poor study habits, frequent absences, difficulty concentrating, decreased motivation, or time management are issues that might indicate a need for counseling.
Psychologists in the Counseling Center are available to perform psycho-educational (for learning disabilities), psychological, and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) evaluations. The Office of Student Disability Services refers students for testing and facilitates accommodations for students whose disabilities (learning, physical, or emotional) have been properly documented.
Please note that we are not in a position to make judgments about a student's absences from class. Instructors, rather than counselors, can more appropriately make decisions about a student's academic work and accept documentation of absences.
HOW TO REFER A STUDENT
In Cases of Emergency
A student in crisis can usually be seen immediately in the Counseling Center during office hours, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. In the midst of such a crisis, a student might appreciate a faculty or staff member's accompanying her/him to the Counseling Center and possibly staying with her/him through the intervention. The next best option would be to have the student identify another support person to escort her/him to the Counseling Center.
A crisis might include suicidal ideation, drug or alcohol reaction, sexual or physical assault, or bizarre or aggressive behavior. Any time you have serious concerns about a student's physical or emotional safety, we suggest that you treat the situation as an emergency and contact the Counseling Center. The Walk-In Counselor will most likely be the person available to speak with you and help plan a course of action.
If the student is in no condition to come to the Counseling Center, you are advised to call the Campus Police at x3103. A counselor may also be helpful in coordinating this type of response.
After office hours (evenings and weekends), a member of the Counseling Center staff is available on call. To page the on-call person, call the Campus Police or the Resident Director of any residence hall on campus.
To suggest counseling to a student, it is usually best to speak directly with the student in an open, caring manner to communicate your concern about his or her welfare. Be specific about the behavior or changes that have raised your concern. The option to follow through with counseling must be left up to the student. If the student expresses reluctance to seek counseling, express your acceptance of those feelings. He or she may not immediately respond in a positive way to your suggestion and may need time to consider the idea of counseling.
It is helpful to present students with information about what to expect from the Counseling Center. Let them know where we are located and how to get in touch with us. Counseling sessions are confidential and are not connected in any way with a student's academic record. A student coming to the Counseling Center for the first time may call or come in during walk-in hours. If he/she calls, an intake appointment will be scheduled. A student who comes in without an appointment will meet with the counselor on Walk-In duty. During that first session, the counselor will ask for information, try to put the student at ease, discuss the reasons for coming to the Counseling Center, and offer the option of continued counseling.
If a student is disruptive in class or exhibits behavior that is in any way contrary to the Student Code of Conduct, it is appropriate to contact the campus Behavior Emergency Assessment and Response Team (BEAR Team). See the following links for reporting information:
and a decision tree for appropriate referral:
SUGGESTIONS FOR MAKINGSUCCESSFUL REFERRALS
1. Learn about the Counseling Center and the kinds of services it provides. Be able to present information about how to make an appointment. It is sometimes helpful to recommend a specific counselor with whom you are familiar.
2. Communicate your concern about the behavior you have observed and invite the student to talk about what is going on in his/her life at this time.
3. Anticipate students' concerns and fears about seeking counseling. Be prepared to address them. Students are often fearful of being seen as "crazy", of appearing weak, or of others finding out why they are seeking counseling. Discuss the idea that everyone needs someone to talk with at times and everyone has problems. This is not a sign of being crazy or weak. Counselors are bound by rules of confidentiality, and counseling records are not part of a student's academic record.
4. Create positive expectations. A successful outcome is more likely if you communicate your confidence in the counseling staff.
5. Solicit the student's response to the suggestion of a referral. If the student is reluctant, ask what other options he/she might consider and discuss the appropriateness of alternatives.
6. If the student agrees to be referred, invite him/her to call from your office to schedule an appointment.
7. Feel free to call us or document in writing (or by email) your concerns about a student you wish to refer.
8. After the initial discussion and referral, ask the student for feedback about whether he/she was pleased with the outcome. Continue to be supportive, whether or not the student decided to go to the Counseling Center.
GROUPS AND WORKSHOPS
In addition to individual counseling, the staff offers counseling, support, and skill building groups (see the section on Group Counseling) and a Brown Bag workshop series on Thursdays during the University hour. The Brown Bag series includes such topics as study skills, healthy relationships, conflict, and communication, coping with loss, relaxation and stress reduction, time management and others. Some instructors offer extra credit to students who provide documentation of attendance at these sessions.
Our counseling and support groups focus on personal growth and, sometimes, on specific issues. Groups offer the opportunity to practice new behavior, get and give feedback on social interactions, and find that they are not alone in their experiences and challenges.
Our Don't Cancel that Class program (see above) offers instructors the opportunity to invite a counselor to speak to your class when you will be absent. Call us for more information.
HOW TO CONTACT US
We invite you to call the Counseling Center at x3130 between 8:00 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to consult with a counselor or to learn more about our services.
MORGAN STATE UNIVERSITY COUNSELING CENTER
Carter Grant Wilson Room 202
Walk-In Hours: Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
If a currently enrolled student is coming to the Counseling Center for the first time or in an emergency, he/she may speak with the counselor on Walk-In duty.
Emergency on call
After hours and weekends:
Call the campus police at (443)885-3103 to contact the counselor on call.