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Referring a Student for Professional Help

When to Refer

In many cases of student distress, faculty and staff can provide adequate help through empathic listening, facilitating open discussion of problems, instilling hope, validating and normalizing concerns, conveying acceptance, giving reassurance and offering basic advice.

In some cases, however, students need professional help to overcome problems and to resume effective functioning. The following signs indicate a student may need counseling:

  • The student remains distressed following repeated attempts by you and others to be helpful.
  • The student becomes increasingly isolated, unkempt, irritable, or disconnected.
  • The student’s academic or social performance deteriorates.
  • The student’s behavior reflects increased hopelessness or helplessness.
  • You find yourself doing ongoing counseling rather than consultation or advising and feeling yourself pulled in directions with which you are uncomfortable.
  • The student shows significant and marked changes in behavior and mood.

How to Refer

  • Speak to the student in a direct, concerned and caring manner.
  • Because students may initially resist the idea of counseling, be caring but firm in your judgment that counseling would be helpful. Also, be clear about the reasons that you are concerned (“I am worried about you doing okay in school and I bring this up because I care about how you are doing”).
  • Be knowledgeable in advance about the services and procedures of Counseling and Mental Health Services and other campus help-giving agencies. The best referrals are made to specific people or services (you can find out about Counseling and Mental Health Services clinicians on the Counseling and Mental Health Services website).
  • Suggest that the student call to make an appointment, and provide the phone number to Counseling and Mental Health Services (860-486-4705) as well as the location (Arjona Building).
  • Sometimes it is useful to actively assist students in scheduling an initial counseling appointment. You can offer the use of your phone or call the receptionist yourself while the student waits in your office. In some situations, you may find it wise to walk the student over to Counseling and Mental Health Services. You could review the Counseling and Mental Health Services website with the student as well.
  • If you need help in deciding whether or not it is appropriate to make a referral, call the Counseling and Mental Health Services at 860-486-4705 for a consultation with a clinician.
  • Counseling and Mental Health Services staff will also come to your department to speak to your staff regarding referral procedures and services. Please call 860-486-4705 to schedule a meeting.

A Note On Confidentiality

All clinical contact with Counseling and Mental Health Services is privileged and confidential. While the staff is responsive to the needs and concerns of the UConn community in regard to individual students, no information regarding a student’s treatment will be divulged to anyone including parents, faculty or staff of the University of Connecticut, without the student’s written consent. However, by law, a clinician must report any knowledge of suspected child, elder or other dependent abuse, or of risk to an individual’s physical safety. In addition, a clinician must disclose records if ordered by a court to do so. In these very unlikely situations, the clinician will only reveal information as specifically required.