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FAQs for Concerned Others

I’m worried about my student, and want her/him to go to Counseling Services. How can I help her/him?
Make sure to talk with your student when both of you have uninterrupted time and privacy. Raise the subject in a caring, supportive manner. Sometimes, even if a student hasn’t mentioned feeling upset, they can feel relief to hear that you care enough to notice that they may be struggling. Following are some suggestions as to how you might start a conversation.

“I’ve noticed you have been looking (or sounding) tired and you seem as if there’s a lot on your mind lately. Would you like to talk about how things are going for you?”

“You mentioned that you’ve been missing classes lately, and that can be pretty stressful later. I want you to know that I care about you. Is there anything going on that is getting in your way or making it difficult to get to or be in class?”

“I’m concerned about how you are doing. You haven’t mentioned many fun things lately. Are you feeling overwhelmed or stressed?”

Listen, and allow the student to tell her/his story without interruption. Allow the student to express their emotions without attempting to problem solve immediately. Let the student know that it is alright to share concerns and/or struggles with you. Avoid minimizing the problem (“It’s not a big deal.”) or seeming dismissive (“Everything will be fine.”). Ask the student what s/he has already tried, and what has been helpful or unhelpful. Try to avoid questions which can seem blaming or judgmental. Talk with the student to the extent that you feel comfortable.

If you feel that a student could use more help than you know how to provide, help the student identify the problem and explore possible alternative responses or options. As one option, you may suggest that s/he visit a counselor. Share what you know about counseling, and how you believe it could help. Express concerns directly and honestly, in a nonjudgmental way. Listen carefully and try to see the issue from the student’s perspective without necessarily agreeing or disagreeing. If the student is reluctant to try counseling, try to explore the reasons for hesitation, and help to resolve those concerns.

If your student is willing, ask if s/he would like help making a connection with Counseling Services. While the student will need to schedule an appointment directly (we cannot schedule an appointment for a student solely at the request of family, friends, faculty or staff members), it can be helpful to make the call or walk over to our offices together. If it would help students to feel more comfortable, they may choose to have a supportive person attend their first session with them.

Afterward, 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.

I suggested Counseling Services, but my student won’t go. What can I do?
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 to express concern if you continue to notice signs of distress.

It can be helpful to talk with your student about their hesitations to attend counseling. After learning their reasoning, you may be able to talk them through concerns. For example, some students worry that others will learn about what they discuss in counseling, and they might get into trouble as a result. In that case, explaining the confidentiality of counseling might help them to be more comfortable with the idea.
Our staff is available to talk with students about their questions or concerns before scheduling. We’re happy to help students know what to expect of talking with a counselor or address any worries the best that we can.

Counseling Services is also available to you if you would like to talk through or get suggestions as to approaches toward suggesting counseling to your daughter or son.

In lieu of counseling, if s/he lives on campus, you may speak to your daughter/son’s Community Advisor (CA) or Area Coordinator (if the student lives on campus) by contacting the Office of Residence Life, or our Chaplain to talk about ways of otherwise supporting your daughter/son.

Please continue to check in with your student about their emotional well-being on a regular basis. However, try to avoid pressuring your student. Getting into a heated discussion is typically less effective or productive than having open, honest communication.

If you believe your student poses an immediate danger to themselves or others, call Counseling Services, Campus Security, or 911.

I’m worried about my student, and I want to know what is being discussed during counseling sessions. How can I get this information?
Our staff is required by ethical and legal obligation to restrict the sharing of counseling-related information. If your student is 18 years of age or older, this means that we cannot share information with you about their contact with Counseling Services.  Confidentiality is also an important part of the relationship we establish and maintain with students in counseling.

We understand that confidentiality requirements are often a source of frustration for parents who feel it is important to be involved in their daughter/son’s counseling. However, unless your student has given written consent, we cannot confirm or deny that a student has come to Counseling Services for counseling, share the name of their counselor, or provide any details as to their involvement with Counseling Services, even if the student has already provided those details to you. If you believe it is important to talk to your student’s counselor, we encourage you to speak with your student about your concerns and ask them to sign a release of information form at Counseling Services. Students reserve the right to choose to limit parental involvement in their services at our office.

In life-threatening circumstances, including a suicidal or homicidal threat or any circumstances requiring emergency services and/or evaluation of your student, you will likely be notified by a school official, assuming that we have accurate contact information and that you are available to be reached.

I referred my student to Counseling Services, and I just want to know if s/he scheduled/attended an appointment. How can I get information about attendance?
We cannot confirm or deny that a student is a client or share any information about attendance without written permission from the student. If you would like more information about a student’s contact with Counseling Services, we encourage you to speak directly with the student.

I just want to share something about my student with a counselor, but I don’t necessarily want to learn anything about what s/he has said to the counselor. Can I do that?
Yes, you are free to leave information with a counselor any time you would like to do so. 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). If the student about whom you are sharing IS a client in our office, all information a counselor receives about that student will be shared with her/him, unless doing so puts any person’s life in danger. We understand that this can be frustrating, but counseling is most beneficial when a student feels that s/he can trust their counselor and knows that their counselor will be open and honest with her/him.

Can I talk to someone about my student’s situation to get support and suggestions about how I can help?
Yes. While counselors will not be able to provide information about any student’s involvement with our office, you can call Counseling Services M-F between 8:00 AM and 4:30 PM to consult and seek your own support in helping your student. Counselors can provide information in general terms in regard to mental health concerns, and can provide guidance on having conversations with loved ones about emotional well-being. If all counselors are meeting with students at the time of your call, please leave a message, and your call will be returned as soon as possible.

You may also email counselors for consultation, but please be aware that e-mail is not a secure form of communication and privacy cannot be guaranteed.


If you have other questions, please feel free to contact Counseling Services at (515) 961-1332 and we will assist you to the best of our abilities.