Intervention: Tips to talking with students about your concerns
If you have noticed any of the warning signs covered in this booklet, you are faced with a decision of whether or not to intervene. Openly acknowledging to students that you are aware of their distress, sincerely concerned about their welfare and willing to help them explore alternatives can have a profound and positive effect. We encourage, whenever possible, speaking directly and honestly with a student when you sense he/she may be experiencing emotional distress. When speaking with a student you suspect may be in distress, we recommend the following:
- Speak with the student privately to minimize embarrassment or defensiveness.
- Discuss your observations and perceptions with the student.
- Express concerns directly and honestly, in a nonjudgmental way.
- Always speak from a place of caring, rather than making accusations.
- Listen carefully and try to see the issue from the student’s perspective without necessarily agreeing or disagreeing.
- Help the student identify the problem and explore possible alternative responses or options.
- Involve yourself only as far as you are competent to do so and make appropriate referrals. The Counseling Services staff is available to assist you.
- Do not promise to keep secrets. If student is in imminent danger of hurting themselves or others, contact SCS, the Dean of Student Development or police immediately.
- Follow up. Whether you make a referral to counseling or not, letting a student know that you care by checking in from time to time can have a strong positive impact.
If you are unsure of how to work with or respond to a certain distressed student, we encourage you to consult with one of the counselors on campus. Once you contact us specifying your concerns we will return your call as immediately as possible. Office hours are 8 AM – 4:30 PM, Monday through Friday. You can contact Ellie Olson, PhD, Director of Counseling Services at 515-961-1556.
The following questions may be helpful in your decision to refer a student to Counseling Services:
When should I refer a student to Counseling Services?
The decision to refer a student to counseling services should first be based on your own observations, i.e., does the student display any of the previously listed signs and symptoms of emotional distress? Remember that a student has the right to accept or refuse a referral. If a student refuses and does not appear to be in immediate danger to self or others, accept their decision, but consider approaching the student again in the future if you continue to notice signs of distress.
How should I refer a student to Counseling Services?
You can make a referral to Counseling Services in the following ways:
- Suggest the student call (515-961-1556), email (email@example.com), or go to Counseling Services in the Student Development Office in the BSC.
- Volunteer to call Counseling Services while the student is in your office and then put them on the line.
- Offer to walk the student over to Counseling Services.
- Counselors will only schedule appointments at the request of the student, we cannot schedule an appointment for a student solely at the request of a parent, friend, faculty or staff member. While your assistance may be instrumental in getting the student connected to Counseling Services, receiving counseling services must be the ultimate responsibility and desire of the student in question.
Counselors are under ethical and legal obligation not to release confidential information. This includes information about whether or not a student is attending counseling. If you refer a student to counseling, you will only be notified of that student’s attendance if he or she gives written permission to do so. If you would like more information about a student’s contact with Counseling Services, you may speak directly with the student. Counselors may listen to anything you have to share about a student, but can only provide information if written consent is given by the student. The only exception is when the student presents a danger to self or others.
Simpson Behavioral Intervention Team
The Simpson Behavioral Intervention Team (SBIT) was created to provide a point of contact for members of the college community who have encountered student behavior which they perceive as aberrant, threatening or dangerous. The goal of SBIT is to address behaviors of concern, connect students to available resources and promote the safety of the campus. The team consists of the Dean of Students and Director of Counseling Services. Additional personnel are called in on an as needed basis depending on the situation. You may submit your concerns about a student by contacting either of these individuals.