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Referral Guide

Faculty and Staff as Helping Resources for Students

Faculty and staff who are concerned about a student’s mental health are encouraged to contact the Counseling Center for consultation on how to support the student.  Counseling Center staff members will consult with any person concerned about a student to develop strategies to work with that student. It is helpful to speak with the student and encourage the student to contact the Counseling Center for an initial consultation. It is appropriate to offer the phone number or personal support such as accompanying the student to the Counseling Center if the student appears to be in crisis.

The student must speak to the Counseling Center to make an appointment. Once a student makes an appointment, the Counseling Center will not release any information about that student without written permission. Any person concerned about a student who they believe may have contact with the Counseling Center may relay their concerns to a staff clinician.

Sources of Stress for Students


  • Tests and grades; competition and performance anxiety
  • Difficulties with instructors and class environment/participation
  • Procrastination and poor time management
  • Lack of motivation
  • Inadequate study skills
  • Problems in major selection and course choices
  • Uncertain vocational goals and career direction
  • Concerns about employment skills and opportunities


  • Separation from family; homesickness
  • Parental pressures and expectations
  • Financial concerns
  • Interpersonal conflicts, including peer pressure and peer approval
  • Concerns about intimate relationships and sexuality
  • Perfectionistic standards and/or unrealistic expectations
  • Indefinite or conflicting goals and values
  • Personal identity and self-esteem issues
  • Loneliness, lack of support system
  • Difficulties in adjusting to change
  • Unsatisfactory living conditions
  • Concerns about personal appearance
  • Unbalanced life style (work, school, leisure)
  • Substance abuse (alcohol, drugs, food)

Crises/Unexpected Events

  • Death of significant other
  • Divorce or marital separation (including parents)
  • Breakup of relationship
  • Academic disappointment or failure
  • Unexpected pregnancy
  • Major injury or illness
  • Change in financial situation
  • Loss of job
  • Sexual assault
  • Physical, emotional isolation

Tips for Recognizing Distressed Students

The following may help identify students in distress. It is important to note that any single symptom by itself may not indicate the presence of unmanageable stress. However, if a student appears to have several symptoms or you notice a change in the following areas it is appropriate to recommend they contact the Counseling Center for an initial consultation.

Marked Changes in Academic Performance or Behavior

  • Poor performance and preparation
  • Excessive absences or tardiness
  • Repeated requests for special consideration especially when this represents a change from previous functioning
  • Unusual or changed pattern of interaction
  • Avoiding participation
  • Dominating discussions
  • Excessively anxious when called upon
  • Attention/memory difficulties
  • Disruptive behavior
  • Problems with roommates or family
  • Exaggerated emotional response obviously inappropriate to the situation

Unusual Behavior or Appearance

  • Depressed or lethargic mood
  • Hyperactivity or very rapid speech
  • Swollen or red eyes
  • Change in personal hygiene or dress
  • Dramatic weight loss or gain
  • Strange or bizarre behavior indicating loss of contact with reality
  • Abrupt or radical changes in behavior
  • Overuse or regular use of illicit drugs, alcohol, and/or medication (without medical monitoring)

References to Suicide, Homicide or Death - Verbal and Written

  • Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
  • Overt references to suicide
  • Isolation from friends or family
  • Homicidal threats

When to Refer

Even though you may be genuinely concerned about students and interested in helping them, you may find yourself in situations where it would be better to refer the student to other resources. A referral is usually indicated in the following situations:

  • The problem is more serious than you feel comfortable or capable of dealing with.
  • You are extremely busy or experiencing stress in your own life and are unable or unwilling to handle other requests for help.
  • You have talked to the student and helped as much as you can, but further assistance is needed.
  • You think your personal feelings about the student will interfere with your objectivity
  • The student admits that there is a problem but doesn’t want to talk to you about it.
  • The student asks for information or assistance which you are unable to provide.

If you have questions about a student’s behavior or the appropriateness of a referral for counseling, you may call the Counseling Center (512-245-2208) and ask to speak to a counselor about ways to proceed with the student.

How to talk to students about going to the Counseling Center

When you have determined that a student might benefit from professional counseling, it is best to talk to the student privately about your concerns. Below are tips for having a discussion with a student in distress.

  • Present your suggestion for counseling in a non-threatening way.
  • Be specific regarding the behaviors that have raised your concerns and avoid making generalizations about the individual.
  • Reassure them that counselors work with people who have a wide range of concerns (e.g., relationship problems, depression, stress, etc.) and that seeking help is a sign of strength and courage rather than a sign of weakness or failure.
  • It may be helpful to point out that seeking professional help for other problems (e.g., medical, legal, or car problems) is considered good judgment and an appropriate use of resources.
  • It may also help them to know that they do not have to be able to pinpoint what is wrong before they seek assistance.

Click on Counseling for more information about our services and how to use them. If you would like a copy of our information brochure, you may call 512-245-2208 to request one.

Except in emergencies, the option must be left open for the student to accept or refuse counseling. 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 still refuses to seek counseling, then respect that decision, and again leave the door open for possible reconsideration at a later time.

In an emergency situation, call the Counseling Center (512-245-2208) and ask to speak to a counselor immediately. On-Call counselors are available on weekdays 8 am to 5 pm and can respond to students in crisis and consult with faculty and staff.

Suicidal intent, acute risk of violent behavior, severe loss of emotional control and gross impairment in thinking ability are examples of emergencies. If an emergency occurs after 5 p.m. or on weekends, please contact the University Police Department by dialing 911 from any campus phone.

If the student accepts your referral, proceed with steps to link him/her to the Counseling Center.

Finally, after you have referred the student, follow up with him/her to show your continued support. All contacts/visits with the Counseling Center are confidential; therefore, information regarding a student cannot be released to you without a student’s written permission.

Faculty and staff that are confronted with personal and professional issues are encouraged to contact Bobcat Balance, an employee assistance program offered through the Human Resources.