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Making a Referral

Making referrals for counseling is a skill which requires tact, sensitivity, and at times firmness. Your attitude of sincere interest and helpfulness toward the person in need is most important. You should be aware that students, even if they asked for your help, are often ambivalent and embarrassed to ask for such assistance. One way you can help is to provide support in allaying any fears and assistance in answering as many of their questions that you reasonably can. Here are some tips for facilitating a smooth referral.

When to Make a Referral

There are several instances in which you should make a referral to the University Counseling Center:

Stating a Need for Help

Students will often come to faculty, staff, or friends with direct questions for assistance. Through talking, you may realize that the problems are beyond your scope of knowledge or power to change. If this person opens up to you, she/he clearly feels that your relationship is a valued one; your opinion and response will most likely be heard.

Adjustment Difficulties/ Emotional Problems

If a student expresses any of these concerns and you believe that the person could benefit from professional help.

Unusual or Disruptive Behavior

Sometimes people do not tell you directly that there is a problem, but their behaviors can be cues that something is wrong. Distinct changes in academic performance, withdrawal from others, changes in participation levels (e.g. classes, clubs/ organizations, sports, work, etc.), crying, outbursts of anger, and poor attendance are examples of behavior changes that you may observe.

Talking about Suicide

If a student talks or writes about suicide, this should be taken seriously. Suicidal thoughts are in themselves not necessarily dangerous but if they include actual plans for suicidal behaviors, the severity of danger to the student increases dramatically. To make the assumption that talk of suicide is simply an attention-seeking gesture can be a fatal mistake. If you become aware of a student who is thinking about suicide, please make an immediate referral to the University Counseling Center. You can certainly call for a consultation if you are unsure how to handle this situation or if the student is reluctant to take your referral. If a student clearly states the intent to commit suicide, call Campus Police at 717-477-1444, Holy Spirit Crisis Services (Cumberland County) at 717-763-2222, or Franklin County Crisis Services at 717-264-2555.

If any of the above issues pertain to your situation, please make a referral to the University Counseling Center. If you would like some consultation with a senior staff counselor to assist you in responding effectively, please contact the UCC at 717-477-1481.

Clarify What to Expect

When you have decided to refer someone to the University Counseling Center, it is important that you help educate the student about what to expect when seeking counseling services. By explaining how to use UCC services, you will help reduce any anxieties she/he may have about seeking counseling services.

Tell the of the free confidential counseling services on campus.

Emphasize that counseling information is not part of the University's record.

Confidentiality means that information about the student cannot be released.

Information cannot be released to other Shippensburg University offices, family, professors, friends, coaches, etc. without the student's written permission (the exception being if the student is in danger of harming him/herself or others or other similar circumstances). See about UCC for an overview of services and information about confidentiality.

The services are free to current registered full & part-time students.

This includes psychiatric services during the academic year. The first meeting is an intake/ consultation session where the counselor listens to concerns and then helps the student to identify ways to address these concerns.

Refer to the UCC's web page to help clarify what to expect.

This can be particularly important in responding to frequently asked questions about individual counseling.

The Importance of Timing & Other Factors

Timing is Important

When someone is receptive to a referral, offer to pick up the phone and make an appointment immediately.

Reassurance is Important

Assure him/her that seeking help doesn't necessarily mean that s/he has serious problems. There are many kinds of referrals. The best one is the one that will be acted upon. Depending upon the situation, you may refer to UCC as well as friends, clergy, family members, community agencies, and campus offices, especially those in the division of Student Affairs.

Be up front about contacting the UCC

When you contact a University Counseling Center staff member, either by phone or by coming in person, ALWAYS try to discuss the situation with the UCC counselor before bringing the student in, unless it is an emergency. It is best when you also inform the student that you will be talking with a UCC counselor out of concern for the person's best interest before the student initiates contact. This way s/he will not feel betrayed or vulnerable; you can discuss what you will say, or better yet, make the contact in the student's presence so that you can emphasize your desire to make the referral easier for the student.

Making the Referral & Follow-Up Options

Give the student the University Counseling Center phone number, 717-477-1481

The student can call from your room/ office or from home. No appointments can be made for the student by a third party without the student directly speaking to the secretary and asking for an appointment.

If you feel that the student is in crisis

Call the University Counseling Center or have the student call from your room or office. Another option is to accompany the student to the UCC to meet with someone for an urgent concern. If this is an emergency, please call the UCC immediately, bring the student to the UCC, or call Campus Police at 717-477-1444 and you will be connected with the on-call counselor. Depending upon the urgency of the situation, crisis intervention services, urgent appointments (to be seen by someone that day), or after-hours meetings at the Etter Health Center can be arranged.

Contact a counselor at the University Counseling Center

You should do this later to share pertinent information about the person you referred. If you decide it is important to share information about the student with the UCC staff, it is best to receive permission from the student beforehand.

Referral effectiveness

Referrals are most effective when you escort the person to the UCC or when you call ahead and assist in making an appointment. Referrals are least effective when you merely suggest that a person see a counselor.

Contact the University Counseling Center Wellness Center, Naugle Hall - Ground Floor 1871 Old Main Drive Shippensburg, PA  17257 Phone: 717-477-1481 Fax: (717)-477-4041
Mon-Fri: 8:30am-5:00pm, For After-Hours Emergencies call Campus Police at 717-477-1444